Words and Images by Frans le Roux
The great thing about doing an event back to back is that you’re well aware of what lay ahead. This year’s Gravel Travel MTB event took place once again at the picturesque Linton Park wine estate in Wellington. After some much-needed rain a few days prior to the event, riders knew that the trails would be in a near perfect condition.
The 50km route got underway rather late at 08.30 with an unusually warm sun already shining over the winelands. The pace at the front was ridiculous as I watched the leaders fly down the first flowing gravel roads. The first couple of kays were spent amongst the vineyards as we made our way towards Groenberg for the first single track climb of the day. We were now flying along the fantastic Wild Boar trails as we snaked our way back down towards Linton Park before the real climbs of the day started.
The first serious and arguably the toughest climb of the entire race was the Luislang. A sufferfest of note as riders clawed their way up the Groenberg mountain. We then made our way towards Doolhof Wine Estate as we descended some awesome singletracks. These same trails have been used by the Cape Epic too and one can see why! A welcomed waterpoint made way for yet another short sharp concrete road climb. A new section to this year’s event was the Bains Whiskey trail. The trail is everything we love about mountain biking! It features short sharp climbs, switchbacks, rocks and fast flowy downhills. A short gravel road section saw us reach a river where we enjoyed some stunning views of the Bainskloof Mountains.
The route made its way back towards Val du Charron where the last waterpoint of the day awaited the tired riders. Approximately 40km in, the hot Wellington sun made the race feel like the usual summer event. Temperatures approaching 30 degrees made the last 10km an absolute slog fest. From the very bottom of the valley we were directed to the top of one of the Wild Board singletrack sections which relieved some of the previous pain suffered during the route. The last two kilometers was a gently roll towards the finish where a well-deserved coffee or beer awaited.
Looking back at my 2018 GPS file from the event made me realize why it took me twenty minutes longer to finish the race. Despite the event being exactly 50km in distance, somehow, they managed to seek out another 350m of climbing bringing the total stats for the event to a respectable 50km/1300m. This remains a must do event on trails that should be supported more. Make sure you grab your bike and head out to Wellington, you won’t be disappointed.