Words and Images by Robin Moore
The second edition of The Rock Race, two-day stage race, took place in Paarl from 28-29 September 2019. The relatively new race on the calendar presents itself as Paarl’s signature MTB offering and includes the wonderful riding terrain offered by the Hero Adventure Trails, as well as the Paarl Adventure Trails.
Here’s what went down
Stage One Rhebokskloof – Spice Route: 55km – 1000m elevation
With a fast XCO style start from Rhebokskloof, riders have a very short section to stretch the legs and find their place in the bunch before heading into the first pocket of singletrack, climbing gradually around the Western side of Paarl Mountain into Ridgeback farm.
From there an entertaining singletrack climb took us through the famous orchards of Olyvenbosch Olives and down 5km of flowing fun singletrack. Once we caught our breath, it was back to the adventure as we
continued to wind our way down and around the Paarl Mountain through a variety of vineyards, orchards, cattle farms and into the Renosterveld Reserve. The last 2km climb is a leg burner and took us to the finish in front of the CBC Brewery at Spice Route. The Spice Route Destination pulled out all the stops to provide entertainment and the day was filled with music, great food and fun for the entire family.
Stage Two Spice Route – Rhebokskloof: 45km – 1200m elevation
The second and last day of The Rock Race started from the Spice Route Destination and was a journey on the Eastern slopes of Paarl Mountain. The variety of terrain is second to none with trails beginning at Spice Route. A flat and fast 8km to start off with before heading into the new XCO Trail on Diamant Estate, better known as Tomb Raider. A super fun section, where rock formations, fast berms and flowing forest sections put a smile on our faces and had me feeling like Nino Schurter at a World Cup XCO race.
Once through Diamant it was downhill to the base of the climb up to the Taal Monument – a solid 12km slog. The climb eases its way up to the radio tower at the top of the mountain, before dropping down into the Hero Adventure Trails at Rhebokskloof. This section is better known as “Superbowl” – the following 14km was pure singletrack awesomeness, heading all the way into the finish at the main restaurant. The day at Rhebokskloof, again did not disappoint with lots to eat and drink coupled with live entertainment.
Amid a jam-packed MTB stage race calendar, The Rock Race caters for true and spirited mountain bikers, who love great trails, tough racing and great hospitality in sublime surroundings. With relatively short distances, compared to the bigger stage races on the calendar, The Rock Race is perfect for riders who want to experience what stage racing is all about, without the frills, fuss and hefty price tag of the bigger stage race events. I will definitely be back in 2020!