Again and again, KAP sani2c delivers the best three days you can have on a mountain bike

The 20th edition of the KAP sani2c saw all three events, The Race, Adventure and Trail, thrill riders from Underberg to Scottburgh on 265 kms of exclusive trails. Through community and landowner relationships, the organisers have crafted a breathtaking amount of singletrack over twenty years, covering 44 farms, a nature reserve, indigenous forest and many rural villages of KwaZulu-Natal.

Images by Anthony Grote and Kelvin Trautman

The Race is the original sani2c event and features the pro riders at the front end, but with a field of 1000 riders, only some are there to race, the bulk are there to have fun and challenge themselves. The Adventure, also capped at 1000 riders, the first ‘duplicate’ event created in 2008 to cater to the demand, was sold out months before, with many riders having become attached to the ‘middle’ event at sani2c.

The reintroduction of the Trail this year as the dedicated e-bike race was a universal hit, with e-bike riders and ‘normal’ bikes enjoying a relaxed environment, where no feathers were ruffled.

Though the Trail was established in 2012, again due to demand, the event was dropped for three years after the COVID-19 restrictions of 2020. At the 2024 edition, it was clear that this event is set to become the most popular space for companies to bring their teams or clients to enjoy three challenging days on the bike together. With supporter packages available, groups or families need not all be riding, in order to join the fun.

The racing stakes were raised this year with the 2024 KAP sani2c being a UCI sanctioned event, and a Prologue was introduced the day before the start of the Race. Only the UCI registered riders took part in this 16 km short course around the Glencairn Farm environs.

 Ixopo dairy farmer Glen Haw started the event in 2005 as a fundraiser for his children’s school. After twenty years, and with sani2c having become a holy grail of stage racing in South Africa, ‘Farmer Glen’, as he has become known, says that this year seemed particularly relaxed and riders appeared content, just enjoying themselves: “It was a good sani. I think perhaps we have been doing this for so long now, and with our grown-up ‘kids’ taking care of so many aspects, it feels like a lot less to worry about. In the beginning it was just me and Mandy.”

Twenty years is a long time, and in this time riders have gone from sleeping in chicken coops (yes, there are a few stories to tell from the early days), to enjoying a comfortable mattress in a canvas tent that you can stand up in (or a luxury tent if that is your preference). Spaces like the dining area at Glencairn Farm have transformed, and if you skip a beat and miss a year or two at sani2c, there will be lots of surprises in store on your return.

“We take on board feedback each year and improve on all fronts, and so we have riders coming back again and again, noticing the changes. We even have three riders who have done every single sani2c, and many more who have done ten or more. It is their annual pilgrimage,” says Glen.

Flavio Scarpa is one of these riders, and even after emigrating to Italy in 2022, he returned to South Africa for sani2c in 2023 and 2024. He says:“#20 was always going to be special, my second trip back from Italy, and my second sani2c that I rode with my son.”

After twenty years, Flavio, who knows the route so well, still notices the improvements each year. A significant change for 2024 was on the last section of day 1 , which has created a gentler ascent and a faster finish. Flavio says: “That new section gets my thumbs up approval, it is much more interesting and there are lovely sections of new singletrack. And then there is no better day on a mountain bike than day 2 at sani2c, seeing the Umkomaas Valley in all its glory, you never get tired of that view, and it will only be a pleasure to come back in 2025 for #21.”

Not only are there riders who have done every sani2c, there are team members who have played valuable roles from the start. Dave Johnson owns the Toyota dealership in Ixopo and describes himself as ‘a chap who lives in the countryside’. He has been the sweep on a motorbike at every single sani2c, and beams when sharing stories from over the years: “It’s such a delight to get the guys across the line. For me it’s such an accomplishment to do this for them, because when they’ve given up, and are saying ‘we’ve had enough’, ‘we’ve run our race’, and I say ‘come on, let’s just get to the next water table and we’ll make a decision there’, because you can’t get vehicles into most of these places anyway, these places are totally inaccessible. And then they carry on and finish.”

“Early on, I remember there was a couple, and the woman rider was struggling, right at the bottom of the Umkomaas Valley. She had totally lost her sense of humour and was ranting and raving at her partner, admonishing him for not taking fruit at the breakfast table. He looked at me with such desperation, he did not know what to do with his tired, angry partner.

“Now when Glen had briefed me on being the sweep, he had told me ‘Dave, always carry fruit’. So when I got to this couple I asked if I could help. She looked at me and said: ‘Nothing you can do for me unless you’ve got an orange’. I put my rucksack down and I pulled out a banana, an apple and an orange. She grabbed all three and flattened them, got on her bicycle, and she was gone. Later that evening she came and told me I was her saviour.”

Dave understands the point riders have reached when he encounters them: “One thing I have learnt, if you can get the mind to send the right message, the body will produce.”

John Low from Cape Town rode his first sani2c this year with his friend Johan Smit, and his wife Lindi joined as a supporter.

“The adventure (it truly is) starts way before the actual start of the race. The build-up happens a few weeks before via the whatsapp group sharing tips and links to videos. Talk about getting you into the groove, and pushing you for the last training sessions via the daily voicenotes from Farmer Glen.

“From Glencairn to Scottburgh, I could not get rid of the grin on my face. Except Iconic, an entirely different matter.  The food, the coffee, the beer, the chocolate milk at the finish line, fried bacon at waterpoint 1 on stage 3. Did I mention the beer?”

“I had not realized that the waterpoints will be a full-on buffet. I cheekily teased my ride partner that I rode further than he did each day (when comparing our GPS data), only to realise that it was me walking up and down at the waterpoints, feasting on the yummy buffet. The views are spectacular, endless manicured singletrack, camaraderie of riders and the awesome community support. It’s the perfect balance of beauty and struggle to make the finisher’s shirt all the more worth it. I’m not surprised that riders keep coming back.”

John adds: “‘Legend’ does not even come close to describing Farmer Glen. The fact that he makes time at the finish line, medals in hand, to pose for a photo with the individual teams. That is special. Is there such a thing as post-sani2c depression? It definitely feels like it! Iconic, we have unfinished business!”

 John’s wife Lindi so enjoyed her time as a supporter and is now inspired to ride one day: “There are very few things that come close to the vibe and excitement at a multi-day MTB event, and sani2c was no exception. You first meet people as strangers with a common cause and interest, supporting your partners and friends, and by the end of the race, strangers have become friends and us supporters felt as much part of the sani2c family as the riders themselves.”

“It was such an impeccably organised, quality event. Farmer Glen is like a warm father figure to all with his personal interactions and congratulations to each rider, and he chatted to even us  supporters. His passion for the event is contagious. One day I’ll be there on my bicycle doing the sani2c, to tick off my bucket list,” says Lindi.

For more information or to enter the 2025 events, visit www.sani2c.co.za

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

*