Perfectly timed deluge hardens Sappi Scottburgh MTB trails

2015LogoScottburgh – The week of stormy weather might have left a trail of destruction across much of KwaZulu-Natal but unlike many, the heavy rains have left smiles on the faces of the organisers of the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race which takes place on KZN’s South Coast on Sunday 14 August.

“With just over two weeks to go to the race, the timing of this rain could not have been better for us,” said event organiser Flavio Scarpa.

“Just last week we were saying how concerned we were with how desperately dry the course was; it badly needed this good soaking!”

“The course should drain this week and once the local riders get onto the track this weekend, it will compact nicely and should be in ideal condition come race day.”

Scarpa reported that 350 millimetres of rain had been recorded in the region in 48 hours, triggering memories of the inaugural Scottburgh Winter Solstice Festival in 2008 that was set to see the launch of the Scottburgh MTB Race before flooding just days before the event forced its cancellation.

“It is totally different this year thanks to the timing of the rains!” explained a relieved Scarpa.

“We have such a passionate and enthusiastic mountain bike community in Scottburgh that we can’t wait to get out onto the course, assess the impact of this week’s rains and sort out any flood damage that may have occurred.”

The uMpambanyoni River crossing that competitors have come to enjoy at the end of the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race may need to be reconsidered ahead of this year's race - Finish Line Photos/ Gameplan Media
The uMpambanyoni River crossing that competitors have come to enjoy at the end of the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race may need to be reconsidered ahead of this year’s race – Finish Line Photos/
Gameplan Media

Coping with deluges such as this week’s is something Scarpa and his loyal band of MTB aficionados have become well versed in recently.

Unprecedented flooding of the uMpambanyoni River in May saw the crew having to come to the rescue of the KAP sani2c as that event’s scaffolding bridge that riders use to cross the lagoon to the finish site was abruptly swept out to sea the day before the start of the three day race.

Scarpa confirmed that he and his team would closely monitor the levels of the uMpambanyoni River – currently flowing strongly after the unseasonal rains – and make an appropriate call on the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race’s final few hundred metres closer to the race.

“The mouth is wide open at the moment but we have a number of options for that last sector of the race should we need to explore alternate options.

“If we can use the bridge across the beach to the finish, that would be ideal.

“If not then we might have to consider using a neutral zone in reverse, back to the finish.”

One stretch of trail set to have benefitted significantly from the recent rains is the race’s renowned single track section through Sappi’s Canonbrae forest.

“The rain will see these trails harden up for sure and with the trees having now grown to 1.5 to 2 metres tall, riders can look forward to another true forest experience through Sappi’s plantation this year.

“Riders won’t be able to see for miles ahead any longer and instead will be able to focus on and enjoy all the technicalities of the few metres of trail they can see in front of their front wheel.”

The Cycling for Mobility team’s building of a new bridge on the Renishaw Trails stretch is another addition this year, aimed at alleviating congestion and improving riders’ overall experience.

“A big thanks to Sappi for the sponsorship of the materials used to install a bridge on a tricky stretch that got the better of a few in the past and caused a bit of a backlog of riders.”

Scarpa was confident that the reputation that had been established around the annual Scottburgh cycling event would deliver against regular participants’ expectations.

“This is proper mountain biking – raw and untamed! We have always set out to run the race like that and this year will be no different.

“With this rain some of the track will be fast and compacted while some of the climbs might be a little rutted – so be it.

“We believe that’s what the rider s want and expect from our event and once again that is what we plan to deliver on the day,” he concluded.

The 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race is third and ‘sea’ leg of the inaugural South Coast MTB Series and takes place on Sunday 14 August. More information can be found at