Stellenbosch is without a doubt the mountain bike mecca of South Africa. The annual Origin of Trails MTB Experience event takes place at the end of November and its marketed as a year-end mountain bike party. With near perfect summer conditions, Team Full Sus made its way to Stellenbosch.
Words by Frans le Roux / Images by Tobias Ginsberg & David Tarpey
Day 1: 58km & 1 600m ascent
We arrived at a bustling race village which was situated next to the Danie Craven stadium and made our way towards the breakfast zone. Ample cups of coffee and some yummy oats later we lined-up at the start line. The race got underway at a leisurely pace because we all knew what lay ahead. The biggest part of the day would be spent in and around the spectacular Jonkershoek. For those in the know, Jonkershoek has some of the very best trails in the country and one could easily spend hours riding there. After a short urban route, we arrived at one of the wineries leading into Jonkershoek where the first big gradual climb of the day started. We rode for a good few kilometres before we dropped into the first tricky singletrack section. Extremely dry weather made the singletracks dusty and powdery in certain sections and once you throw in the odd rocky section, the proper fun started.
We safely made our way out of Jonkershoek as we flew back towards the furthest part of the route near Mont Marie Estate. Having recently ridden here during Canyon’s SA launch, it was great to ride a familiar section. The famous floating bridge kept us all on our toes as some riders inevitably went for an unplanned swim. The organizers and MC’s announced (repeatedly) that the route is only 58km on the day. When I saw a water table at around 55km, I decided to fly past because the finish was supposedly near- this proved not to be the case as the race ended on 63km. Needless to say the last couple of kilometres without water were unpleasant with the only shining light the brilliant G-Spot trail. I crossed the finish line exactly 4h30 later and proceeded to fully support the beer garden.
Day 2: 49km & 1 500m ascent
Slightly cooler temperatures welcomed riders to Stellenbosch on day two as we lined-up for what promised to be a shorter day which would be spent around the greater Banhoek conservancy. With a short urban route completed, the riders around me went quiet as we approached the dreaded Bothmaskop climb. A few months ago, I encountered this same beast of climb during the Fedhealth Boschendal event. With plenty of switchbacks and a trail that pointed straight to the stars we made our way to the top. Arriving at Bartinney Wines the famous Skyfall section would be the next obstacle- although on this day it felt like an absolute breeze. The trail drops down to the Banhoek valley below at a frightening pace, but the reward is just amazing. Like the Fedhealth event, the next couple of kilometres were my least favourite as the road is bumpy, hilly and no rider could settle into a smooth pedal.
The fresh singletracks that we reached after the boring section made up for all of this though- we flew past some rocky but wonderful trails towards the town Pniel. We crossed the main road and had our bikes aimed at Tokara Wine estate. Some easy vineyard trails took us down past Tokara where we circled a pretty full Idasvalley Dam. A short tar section on the Old Helshoogte Pass saw us reach the bottom of the same Bothmaskop climb. Luckily the climb was relatively short this time around, and we revelled in the singletrack and fast tar section taking us back to the race village. After a little over 3h30 we managed to cross the line and couldn’t wait to grab some coffee and food.
Thanks to the race organizers, route builders and the friendly folk at Stillwater Sports- Origin of Trails remains one of the best 2-day experiences!