An Overberg Experience

While gearing up for the start of the Potberg and De Hoop MTB Challenge on the morning of day one Seamus Allardice overheard the game rangers parked nearby speaking frantically about a fire at the De Hoop Opstal. The story was soon confirmed by event organiser Patric Mosterd of Garden Route Events at the race briefing – but to the credit of the De Hoop Collection, Cape Nature and Garden Route Events they didn’t let near catastrophe interfere with the important business of a mountain bike race.

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Not to make light of the matter, the fire gutted the De Hoop Collection restaurant (which could have spoilt the riders’ lunch a bit) just minutes before the start of the two day Potberg and De Hoop MTB Challenge. The fire burnt through the thatch roof of the 200 year old building in minutes, but fortunately with the race starting at Potberg there weren’t too many people to be evacuated from the restaurant. The amazing thing about the aftermath was that in the four short hours between the start of the fire and the leader’s finishing the De Hoop Collection folks had moved lunch onto the lawns and turned the smouldering ruin of the restaurant into a proof of their excellent organisation. The only change to the plan was the menu adaptation from mac and cheese to lasagne, a far superior pasta based meal in my opinion anyway.

But let’s focus on the riding, which was amazing! Entrants should be warned that there isn’t a racing vibe, and I’d suggest that you rather relax a little if you enter the Potberg and De Hoop MTB Challenge next year. Take your time to enjoy the scenery. Day one starts at the Potberg manor house, near the environmental education centre you might have visited on a school outing as a kid. From Potberg the route crosses farmlands interspersed with patches of fynbos on its way towards the Breede River on jeep tracks with numerous styles crossing the pesky farm fences. Once down on the river the route followed the district road towards Infanta but with the calming waters of the Breede flowing alongside and the thought of 50 more kays to come nobody was moaning about the usually dreaded district road. After the Sijnn Wines water point (yes, there’s a wine farm on the Breede River and their red blend in particular is very good) the route climbed the back of the Potberg before dropping almost straight down to an old farm in the nature reserve called Elands Pad. From there it was a mixture of scenic nature reserve gravel roads, animal paths through the farmlands and a bit more district roads across the energy sapping undulations of the De Hoop hard dunes towards the finish at the De Hoop Opstal. The highlight for me was the near shear drop back into the Reserve, it was skiddy under tyre and a real test of concentration.

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Day two started at De Hoop and took in a 5km long rocky jeep track descent and with the gathering South Easter behind us it was easy to fly down it. At the bottom my riding partner, Warren Fincham and I had to stop to remove leg warmers in anticipation for the crossing of the Vlei, where it had flooded the low water causeway. A compulsory portage across the Melk Vlei was followed by 15km of farmland riding, among wheat, barley, canola and oat fields before the route turned for home. The climb onto the hard dunes that separate De Hoop Nature Reserve from the fertile farmland of the Rûens was a challenging one, to say the least. It was a snaking singletrack climb across broken limestone which demanded your full attention for every pedal stroke. I for one will be back just for that climb and the rocky jeep track descent.

Julie Ann Photography

To say the race organisation was impeccable would be an understatement. Few events are beset with a catastrophe of the kind Garden Route Events and the De Hoop Collection had to overcome at the 2014 Potberg and De Hoop MTB Challenge and I’m sure not many would have been able to recover as well. I’d like to congratulate all involved on their quick thinking and ability to recover from the chaos.

For the riding alone it’s a ride I’d gladly recommend, but for the manner in which the organisers proved their metal it’s one that I can’t help but gush in my endorsement thereof. If you can, enter the Potberg and De Hoop MTB in 2015!

 

Sus the Potberg and De Hoop MTB

Distances: 75km and 50km
Organiser: Garden Route Events

Website: www.gardenrouteevents.co.za or www.dehoopcollection.com

Where are we?

De Hoop Nature Reserve is located in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. It features the biggest marine reserve in South Africa and is known as one of the world’s best snorkelling spots outside of the tropics.

Where are we map

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