Awesome!! That has to be the starting point to describe a great day out of wonderful Cape mountain biking, super organisation, great festival vibes and very cold beers on a warm spring day.
The experience started with a seamless registration process, hassle free parking, clear information on batch start times, a concise race briefing, and a great festival setup for the family to enjoy while the ‘big kids’ were out playing on the trails. For me, this particular aspect is really important as it makes the outing a viable option as a family day even if your better half is not a rider and the kids/grandkids are too small to take part themselves.
Then it was ride time. The weather gods seemed to smile upon the Cape on Sunday after a few “if-ish”’ days. A warm sunny spring morning without a pumping South Easter. Perfect! No need to be carrying any excess clothing, a good thing considering the amount of climbing waiting to pounce on us. Having enough liquids was key considering the heat, I am not exactly sure how hot it actually got, but it must have been close to 30 degrees by midday.
The route was a testament to the great work done by the local farmers and the Tygerberg MTB Club trail builders. As a local, I am spoilt to play on these trails more often than most, but for any visitors, this must have been a treat! The start was well thought out: wide enough road for the masses, but then a first testing climb early enough and long enough to spread the field out to avoid congestion.
The Bloemendal climb, even although on the concrete road, was a lung buster but allowed the weekend warriors to stay in the saddle all the way to the water station. The purists may not be totally in sync with that amount of “unnatural trail”, but considering the number of riders and also the number of natural trail climbs that still lay in wait, there were no complaints from my side. If anything, the only congestion followed on the next climb on the switchback trail up Hillcrest to the Conties mast. However, the mtb community is way chilled, and there was good banter and smiles when we were forced to dismount and hike a bike. My entertainment is always watching the premature remounts (and less flattering speedy dismounts that follow) on these sections of a route!
Nearly every lung buster climb was rewarded with the joy of a Durbanville gem downhill switchback run. This is the part of mtb’ing that I think most weekend warriors live for. The climbs are only there to find the entry point for some cool single track. It’s the racing snakes who worry about how quickly they have to get up the hills, for us mere mortals it’s just about surviving up the hills with enough in the tank to really savour the downhill on the other side (and not fall off!). This route had that in abundance!
It did get painful, it did get hot, and there were visions of that ice cold beer at the finish line calling me. But if it wasn’t difficult everybody would do it, and then what would be the point? Eventually I found my way to the finish line, on one hand happy that it was time to chill and have a cold one, but then also wanting to get back out on the trails as soon as possible so as not to lose the buzz that this type of ride gives you. Even although mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports, in the big scheme of things I still consider myself as one of the blessed few who gets to experience the natural highs, thrills, spills and “out there” natural beauty that mountain biking brings, especially in the Cape region. The likes of Fedhealth are making these experiences happen for a wider audience.
Hats off to the organisers for taking care of all-comers. From the kids, through the beginners and all the way to the racing snakes and pros, everyone was taken into consideration. Of course the attention to detail at the finish line carnival is a great part of the overall package. This is something Stillwater Sports, along with Fedhealth, do really well. The overall Fedhealth MTB Challenge experience was a great one!!