Words: Shayne Dowling / Images: Oakpics
Thousands of mountain bikers, 100 kilometres with views and vibes for days – this is the Karoo2Coast!
Karoo2Coast is considered the “Argus” of mountain biking events. Metaphorically and literally – this is a road that isn’t often travelled.
It is extremely beautiful but also extremely long and it is tough! 4 500 people descend on the small town of Uniondale to ride downhill to Knysna – well there is one little white lie in that sentence: it is by no means downhill! The logo and profile sure make it look like that, but don’t be fooled for one minute! There is plenty of climbing. But let’s go back to the start – the Karoo!
Uniondale and the surrounding areas are the most beautiful, rugged Karoo. We stayed in Willomore in Billy-Jean’s (yip like the MJ song) house – salt of the earth people! Just like all the folks in this area – warm, gesellig, hospitable, just top people really! There are nowhere near enough beds in Uniondale so the next morning is an early start with riders driving in from Knysna, George, Oudtshoorn and every dorp within 100km of what for one day is the capital of the Karoo. Organisation of the race is slick – don’t be fooled by 55the rustic feel, Zandile and the folks of the Lions Club of Uniondale and Knysna have got it sussed! A lekker plate of pasta as part of your entry fee, the night before when you register, or you can support the locals with stunning roosterbrood and potjie amongst other lekker boerekos! Served with a Karoo smile (and a brannas close by)!
The Racetec seeded batches are large but things just work and before you know it you’ve passed the enthusiastic locals shouting “hou bene hou” (hold legs hold – directly translated does the mantra no justice and for a number of supporters it would appear that after the revelling’s of the night before it was actually a message to self!) and your on the Ou Wapad or wagon pass. It’s a leg burner but nice and gradual so before you know it you’re at the first summit and a little water if need be. The fun begins right there, the first long but in this case a little gnarly, down. Open up all shocks and go! Besides concentrating and watching out for fellow riders, the biggest obstacles are the water bottles which dot the bumpy jeep track. The profile doesn’t tell a complete untruth, there are plenty of long descents and they are as exhilarating as they are long, you can really fly on these beautiful smooth pass descents, but you need to be in control of your bike! We saw too many cowboys racing past and ending up on the gravel – 35km/h plus and lycra doesn’t work well when you hit the dirt! But there were far more smiles than spills and it is great fun, but … like the saying goes: for every downhill … and this is the true test of the Karoo2Coast.
The race is so full because you really do get to ride your bike on some of the most spectacular passes in the country. So, you made it up the Ou Wapad, well there are a few more bumps in your way as you cross the Outeniqua mountains to Knysna. You essentially follow Thomas Bain’s Sir Alfred Pass which is spectacular and a real privilege to ride and share with other mountain bikers. The top guys finish in three hours; we finished in double that, but hey we weren’t there to race, frankly on a route like this and with the logistical planning involved what’s the point? We were there to enjoy every one of the 200 plus bends, make it up the long winding climbs and take photographs with the best camera’s ever, our eyes! The start of the forest is a clue your heading towards the coast – it offers a different beauty and on a hot ride is a welcome relief. If you ask as an over-all question, “What’s Karoo2Coast like?”, let me tell you it is not a pushover – you need to train – it’s still 100km and there are a few serious challenges en route – Concordia climb at the back of Simola springs to mind, at 90km or so it is a beatch – but hey your home when you reach the top! Frankly, I absolutely loved the ride! It is tricky logistically but the firebrand that is Zandile and her team will do almost anything to try and ensure you can make it work. The “gees” of the race is incredible; so much chatting, chirping, encouragement and despite cramping, falling, mechanicals so much laughing! It’s a race that is truly filled with smiles!
You have to do it! I’ll be back!