If you want to experience a truly fun day out, make sure you enter the 2018 Darling Brew Extreme. This event attracts close to 2 000 people and it is easy to see why it’s as popular. Full Sus editor, Frans le Roux reports:
When you decide to visit the Cape’s beautiful West Coast you will most probably drive past or see a road sign for Darling. No, it is not the pet name your significant other calls you by, but rather a quaint little town situated in the Swartland. Once every year, this small-town burst at the seams to accommodate thousands of mountain bikers taking part in the Darling Brew Extreme MTB Challenge (DBX17).
At the end of May I made my way to Darling for a race that’s renowned for its superb hospitality, organised routes and of course the post-race Darling Brew beer. The event catered for all fitness levels with a gruelling 75km Bone Crusher and a tough 45km Long Claw race. 30km and 15km distances were also on offer to accommodate the whole family. Since it was my first DBX event I opted to play it safe by entering the 45km ride. I was not planning on repeating my silly Philadelphia MTB mistake I made in April.
With our province now declared a drought disaster area, some overnight rain made conditions less dusty and improved the overall grip during the race. On the morning of the race it was chilly with some scattered rainclouds overhead. These clouds made it very difficult to decide on what one must wear during the race. With plenty of fire drums burning and warm coffee to wake me up, I made my way into the start chute. The 10-minute wait proved to be exciting as we experienced almost all the seasons. A decent rain shower did just enough to get everything wet and even get some mud onto your bike during the first 10 kilometres.
The Long Claw’s first stretch was non-technical and proved the ideal way to wake up cold and sleepy legs. We made our way towards the first sandy climb which took riders over the side of a smallish mountain. If you’ve been on the Wolwefontein Trails, you know how great they are and after our brief climb we now entered the farm from the back to shoot down a fast and technical bit of single track. This short stretch of the route features a couple of hundred meters of built single track flowing between trees. This is thorn-country and I saw many a rider struggle within the first couple of kays with these unwanted guests.
The first fully stocked waterpoint was a delight as riders got the chance to sample some banana bread, coke and various other treats. We made our way down a jeep track towards a stream at the bottom of Wolwefontein. After meandering next to the stream, we crossed underneath the R315 and were greeted with another steady climb. As we reached the top of Wolwefontein we all knew that some exciting single track, switchbacks and jumps lay ahead. The key to this (and most slow sections on any route) is to keep pedalling. Plenty of riders fell over while at a complete standstill because of other riders suddenly stopping.
I successfully navigated the madness and crossed underneath the R315 again to experience another beautiful part of Wolwefontein’s single track. Here we enjoyed varying terrain from muddy ruts to slippery rocks. We zig-zagged around here for roughly 30 minutes before ending up at the bottom to enjoy yet another refreshment station. I pulled over to refill my water bottle before my cravings took over as I consumed way too much of the delicious banana bread. We made another U-turn to go back up towards the top of Wolwefontein just to be brought back down again. Here we were directed onto some open jeep tracks as we saw the sign for less than 10km to go.
A last sharp climb made things slightly tougher but the blistering descent which followed made up for this. I dared to glance at my trip computer as I saw speeds of well above 60km/h. The last couple of kilos were ridden on corrugated roads alongside the train tracks. A little over three hours later I crossed the finish line and was greeted by the friendly folk of Darling Brew. The best part of this race is undoubtedly the complementary beer you receive at the finish. My friends and I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some beer tastings, chowing burgers and drinking coffee before we headed back home.
What a perfect way to spend a Saturday.