Words & Images: Shayne Dowling
START: McGregor (Western Cape)
END: Nowhere – you have to do the ride to find out where that is
THE JOURNEY: Hard but absolutely worth it!
First off let me cop to the fact that this was the first stage race I have ever done on an e-bike. Yes, yes get over it, I visited the “other side” – note visited! But I have to admit riding the e-bike is a complete game-changer: the Giant eTrance literally made the difference between me taking part in the ride or not. I had signed up for my first Ride2Nowhere in Macgregor and after being man-down with bronchitis for four weeks prior to the race, I was in no shape to tackle the event. After a quick chat to the organisers who confirmed that e-bikes were allowed on the event and thanks to a demo from the friendly folk at Giant, I was in!
Lining up with the rest of the long riders (60km each for the first two, and 50 on the last day) in the chute, which was next to the imposing NG Church in the sleepy hollow of McGregor, my angst was completely different to my mates – we had all seen the profile, we had been warned about how the devastating drought had made the route loose and gnarly and the temperature was rising by the minute – all I was worried about was if my battery would last. I got no sympathy from anyone, including the guys on the PA who let me know how much of a woos I was – easy for them to say sitting on their ample posteriors with a cold one. (You know who you are [Smiley]). Off we went! Memories of Day 1 are completely over-shadowed by Le Big Mac; a monster of a climb that is littered with loose stones and rocks, has a nasty gradient and seems to go on forever. Both the short and long routes tackle the Big Mac and it is undoubtedly the iconic, must conquer challenge of the R2N. The reward is incredible – not only do you traverse an amazing valley at the top of the mountain but you get to hold on for kilometres of flowing downhill pleasure.
Don’t be fooled, the Ride2Nowhere is a seriously tough ride. Day 2 brings this home with a never-ending singletrack climb that is a challenge to both rider and machine. If you haven’t been to this part of the world you will be absolutely blown away, not only by the amazing locals but also by the amazing scenery. Yes it’s tough but the organisers have managed to find the most insane routes that are as rewarding as they are challenging. The technical, gnarly downs are such fun that it is easy to see why this event has been bringing mountain bikers back every year for the last seven years. Day 3 is shorter but no less tough or fun. The last single track climb to the back of McGregor hurts after two tough days on the legs; it was also 36°C at 10am, so not too easy, but after traversing what looks like a lunar landscape and having reached the viewpoint looking down at the town, you get to catch your breath and reflect on what an amazing event the R2N is – of course it becomes even more amazing knowing you have another lekker downhill singletrack ride taking you home.
The routes are superbly marked and even though there has been a drought here that have left a lot of the jeep tracks worn out, which to be honest are essentially single tracks as they are really only ridden by mountain bikers, all the potential hazards are clearly marked so that you have ample time to avoid them. I don’t know how they find some of these routes but it is an absolute privilege to be able to reach kloofs and ride hidden valleys that only the local farmers whose land you traverse may have ever seen – or the guys that put up electricity pylons – geez those guys must see some proper special places! It is spectacularly rugged and where the green has soldiered on through the strangling dryness it is hauntingly beautiful.
For all the talk about the loose climbs one of the lasting memories of the race is the insane downhill tracks. Fast, always challenging, at times really technical and definitely ridden by few! There are not many races that have this amount of singletrack descents and that are this much fun. It is without a doubt a reason to come back year after year! Slightly chunkier tyres were a bonus and frankly I don’t see the point of racing such amazing trails – take your time to get to the top and then leave a gap between you and the person in front, open your shocks – and have a jol!
The race village and the village are essentially the same thing – it is a community race and being a cloverleaf route you get to know the locals well as they are the volunteers, the chefs, the marshals, the enthusiastic crowds and the spectacularly friendly folks that take care of you for the weekend. It is a sleepy hollow but it shows off all its splendor at the Ride2Nowhere. Riding to Nowhere is definitely a route worth
following and Full Sus will surely be there following it again!