The Fairtree Capital Simonsberg Contour had all the ingredients to ensure a fantastic inaugural event, but then the Simonsberg Fire threw a spanner in the works. Meurant Botha and his team had to work around the clock to get the event back on track and Kate Slegrova and Ann Harrison report back on how they managed.
Kate Slegrova’s Take on Day 1
With Wines2Whales and Origin of Trails over I was keen to do another race, but with my daughter being only 10 months old I didn’t want to be away from her overnight. So the Tankwa Trek and GR300 were out. New kid stage race on the block, the Fairtree Capital Simonsberg Contour, was perfect though. Two days of riding, close enough to Cape Town to drive through each day and the promise of new Meurant Botha routes and trails to explore. It was set to be awesome.
With a big fire in Simonsberg only two weeks before the race I was left wondering if the race would still go on. Unbelievably the organizers managed to pull forces together and cleaned up the trails getting them ready for the race, which was dubbed the #FireRide.
I must admit my training didn’t go as I would have wished. With no nanny for two weeks over the Christmas holidays I had done more pram-running than cycling. But working in Concept Studio I did a lot of high altitude power based sessions, so my fitness was okay, even if my sharpness on the bike was not. In the week leading into the race I just couldn’t rest enough though, so my legs felting pretty slow.
The weather on the morning of Day 1 was perfect and I was looking forward to enjoying the trails as I hadn’t been on my MTB much recently. But soon after the start, when we hit the first singletrack, I realized my back shock was very soft even while locked-out.
I had pushed its service until too late, obviously. I kept hitting my feet on rocks and on the trail, it was very irritating. Then, while I fiddled with the shock at the worst possible time, on a steep section of trail, I managed a nice fall – but as no damage was done I picked myself up quickly and kept going.
It was very sad to ride through areas where only weeks before forests stood. I was amazed though how the organizers managed to pull away all the trees and branches, making it safe for us to ride.
We rode some great fun singletrack, went through beautiful wine farms and the views from the Simonsberg were breathtaking. The water tables were generously laded with all the right foods. I seriously appreciated the Bos Sport Ice Tea, which hit the right spot in the February heat.
There was a bit of flat stretch into the wind which had to be done, because of the fire causing the race to be rerouted, but it didn’t take too long. Soon enough we were back on singletrack and luckily for me back to the finish.
Well done again to the organizers; Dirtopia and Meurant Botha, for the awesome trails, free bike wash at the finish and a great post-ride meal. I think this race has a great future. It will be a good introduction to stage racing as well as the perfect training race for the Cape Epic.
I decided not to ride the Day 2 because of my broken shock, and a bruised hip and elbow from the fall on Day 1. But I had FOMO all day even though it was probably the right decision, as I wouldn’t have had fun with the shock not working. So you can learn from this: service your front and back shock regularly and don’t leave it to last minute. The longer you leave it, the more you are going to pay. And if they break during a race, they’ll spoil your good time.
Ann Harrison’s Focus on Day 2
February 6th and 7th was the inaugural Fairtree Capital Contour two day stage race and I had the privilege of riding it – and to think it almost didn’t happen.
An event organisers’ worst nightmare is when the trails you have built over several years and specially groomed for a stage race are destroyed by fire – and this is exactly what happened two weeks before the start of the Fairtree Captal Contour stage race. A huge fire raged on the Simonsberg Mountain outside Stellenbosch, causing tragic damage to the vineyards, surrounding mountains and trails.
The event could easily have been postponed but with the financial backing of Fairtree Capital – the title sponsor and the forward thinking and hard work from the Dirtopia Team headed by Murant Botha, they made this event happen.
What an achievement!
I entered the long route option, with both days around 55kms, and although the route for Day 1 had a few changes due to burnt trails, it was a great warm-up for Day 2 with just under 1 000m of climbing. Day 2 was not for the feint hearted or anybody who suffers from vertigo. The trails were narrow and one small mistake could see you tumbling down the mountain – with not a tree or bush to save you!
The long route got really interesting around the 40km mark where we were taken up a brand new singletrack, which had technical switch backs, powdery surfaces and gnarly descents. A route for a fit and competent rider – but so much fun.
This two-day race has huge potential. It’s a great race just to do or to sharpen you up for up and coming longer races like Tankwa Trek and of course the Cape Epic.
Short, sharp and intensive riding on incredible trails. I will be back next year.
Where Are We?
The Fairtree Capital Simonsberg Contour took place on the scorched slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain just outside Stellenbosch. Though separated from the rest of the Hottentots Holland Mountain Range it still boasts tremendous biodiversity with sightings of rooikat and leopard not uncommon on the farms surrounding the mountain.
Ann Harrison ride for Momsen Bikes and is one of Cape Town’s top skills coaches. She aims to empower women in MTB through her coaching and bike maintenance clinics. Follow her on Twitter: @harrison_ann.
Kate Slegrova has written on pregnancy, motherhood and on a host of races for Full Sus. She’s a skills coach, personal trainer and the lady you need if you’re looking to get into top shape for a stage race. Follow her on Twitter at @KateSlegrova .