RIDE REPORT: Sanlam MTB Invitational

Words: Frans le Roux / Images: Robert Ward

The annual Sanlam MTB Invitational race took place recently and I decided to jump at the opportunity to participate. Being from Paarl, I knew that most of the trails would be familiar and that made me even more excited in the lead up to the two-day event.

Day One: 60km 1 200m ascent

Rhebokskloof Wine Estate is situated about five kilometres outside Paarl and this beautiful farm would be the start and finish point on both days. Participants had the option to stay in luxury tents if they wished to stay close to all the action.

We arrived at the venue before 06:00am on Saturday 18 November. Once we filled our tanks we got underway after 07:00. In a change to the 2016 event, the first stage would be done in reverse. What this meant for the riders is that most of the 1 200m of climbing was done within the first 25km.

We left Rhebokskloof in the direction of Paarl and straight away got stuck into a number of decent climbs. After riding through some vineyards, we made our way to the Jan Philips road which is the main gravel road running across Paarl Mountain. A few easy kilos rolled past as we made our way towards the Taalmonument. The trickiest single track was successfully navigated at the top before riders dropped down towards the second waterpoint at Spice Route. This waterpoint offered riders some beer, but myself and partner Gert Goosen declined when we realized it was not even 09:00 yet. With some snacks and water in our bellies we made our way onto new single track. The trail meandered for about 10km through thick dust and a pumping wind before we returned to the same waterpoint. Our climbing was not done yet as we made our way towards Landskroon and Ruitersvlei. We cycled along the R44 for about 30 minutes before another waterpoint appeared out of nowhere.

With less than 10 kilos to go my partner flew ahead so that he could enjoy some rad single track at Rhebokskloof. We had a few more kicker climbs to contend with, but we were stoked to reach the finish at a little over 4h:35.

Day 2: 40km 1 000m ascent

While we enjoyed moderate temperatures yesterday, today would see the mercury rise to over 35 degrees. Luckily, we knew the day would be fast and flowing. Once again, we kicked things off at Rhebokskloof before heading straight up towards the skies. The first waterpoint was at about nine km’s and it took us close to an hour to reach. The climb was brutal at times, but we lost plenty of time in the tight and technical single track because of riders pushing their bikes.

Soon we reached the open gravel roads of the Paarl Mountain Reserve where we flew past loads of riders. I had the advantage of being familiar with the rest of the route which made our going a bit easier. After passing the spectacular Nantes Dam we made our way towards Rhebokskloof again. The final 10 kilometres was spent on the splendid Rhebokskloof Pinotage single track. This was surely the highlight of the entire event. Everything a rider can experience on technical single track was thrown into the mix and I saw plenty of riders smile while flying down towards the finish.

Three hours later we rolled over the finish line and made our way towards the complimentary CBC beers.

What a well organised, well-marked and perfectly executed event in my old hometown. Special thanks to ASG Events, Rhebokskloof and Sanlam for giving us the opportunity to take part.

See you in 2018.

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