Singletrack Racing in the Garden Route

Kate Slegrova did the Garden Route 300 in 2011 and 2012, and she loved it both times! In 2011 she won the mixed teams competition, which she fondly remembers as a great result in one of her first stage races. While in 2012 she rode it with her Dad to show him the local trails and the South African racing vibe. This year she took on the GR 300 as Epic training and here’s how it went…

Lots of people use the Garden Route 300 as a Cape Epic training race as it’s a chance to test the miles you’ve put in during training on a challenging stage race. I was going to ride with my team mate, Lara Woolley, who is superb in her technical skills. Unfortunately though, she hurt her back and couldn’t ride, so I opted to ride solo. I drove up from Cape Town on Thursday at lunch time and registered in the evening. I’d booked very nice accommodation close to the race venue which was at Quay Four on Thesen Island.

It was raining when I arrived so the trails were wet and bit muddy when the race started on Friday morning, but nothing serious – compared to the Cape Pioneer Trek!

Stage 1: 90km with 1 900m ascent

Stage one is all about fun and singletrack in the Harkerville Forest. I love the route. We did the red route and much more, in the opposite direction to usual, which was a great change. I felt great on my new Scott and didn’t find the climbs too bad either. I finished in the top 50 (650 riders) and third in the Solo Women category and was very happy with that.

There was a buffet lunch at the finish and massages for the sore bodies. I had a bit of a trouble of getting my bike washed, but managed eventually. In the evening supper was ordered off the Quay Four menu.

Stage 2: 100km with 2 400m ascent

The start was at Rheenandal, off the N2 about 20km out of Knysna towards Sedgefield. We had to get there by car and then leave our car there and get a shuttle back later. I would have preferred to cycle there, but I can understand that most riders wouldn’t want to add another 20km of riding to their day…

It was probably best I didn’t ride to the start anyway as my legs were quite tired. The Epic training and the Tankwa Trek the week before were clearly having an effect. I tried to get going but didn’t have much power and got passed by a lot of people. The route was made up mainly of gravel roads with beautiful views. There was a short singletrack in the forest at the end, which was lovely, and then a flat piece back to Knysna which I rode on my own. There was a portage down to Homtini and then a river crossing and steep hiking trail up the other side, where we had to carry or push our bikes. I enjoyed that section, as it broke the race up a bit and it was good training for the Epic – as there are always some parts where you have to push and carry your bike (Ed: Kate has too much energy and was probably the only kid who enjoyed running up and down the pavilion stairs for athletics training when she was at school).

For the less keen on climbing, stage two offered an 80km route too, which cut out some of the climbing.

Stage 3: 80km with 1 700m

This day was promised to have more singletrack. We started climbing the famous Simola climb which wasn’t easy, but luckily my legs felt better than they had the day before. After Simola we did more and steeper climbing, then rode down to The Hydro and did another long steep climb which offered lovely views. From water point two the route went mostly downhill with fun singletrack in green forests before we joined stage two’s route for the last 20km of super fun singletrack from the Phantom Pass back to Knysna.

I was happy to finish in 3rd place again and 72nd place overall. We had a nice lunch at the finish, waited for the prize giving and then hit the road back to Cape Town. I’m sure the three day stage races I did in February will pay off at the Cape Epic, so look out for my report on how the Epic went in the May issue of Full Sus!

Sus the Environmental Angle

After hearing that a few riders had struggled to get their bikes washed after each stage at the GR300, Full Sus had a quick chat to Garden Route Events. Louise Wilson was quick to clarify: “Since the race village is on the Knysna Marine Reserve, where the endangered Knysna Seahorse lives, Garden Route National Park, a proud event partner, prohibited any washing at the venue itself.” Bikes were collected from the race village and taken to the various bike shops in Knysna to be washed.

Full Sus is glad to hear that event organisers are taking steps to conserve the sensitive environments their events are held in and would like to remind riders of the RECM Knysna 200 in June that the same procedure will be in place.

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