Mountain bikers will have a rare opportunity to compete in a two-day stage race, when the Sanlam MTB Invitational is held at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate near Paarl on Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20.
Previously a one-day event, route director Darren Herbst said he and ASG Events chief executive Wynand de Villiers had felt there was a gap in the market for a race of this nature over a weekend.
“I think there’s a demand for two-day stage races, as opposed to the traditional three-day or even longer ones.
“With the stunning terrain around the mountain and what we have to offer, Wynand and I felt this was the perfect event to do it. So we have taken the chance to see how it goes.”
He and his team have been hard at work for the past three months creating some new sections around Paarl Mountain, as well as improving existing tracks.
Most of these were incorporated in the first stage over 60km, while the second day of 40km would be largely similar to last year as it “worked well”.
The first stage circumvents the entire mountain anti-clockwise from Rhebokskloof, with the notable addition of some trails on the Suid-Agter Paarl side, which connects Rhebokskloof with Spice Route Estate without having to summit the mountain.
“As a route director, nothing is ever perfect,” said Herbst. “After every race you sit down to analyse things and you feel you could have done this or that better. Then you add the riders’ comments and try to keep improving the route.”
Herbst said to his knowledge nobody had ever created a trail around Paarl Mountain. According to him, the route consisted of single and jeep track as well as contour roads.
“My thinking was that, especially on the southern side of Paarl, the views traversing the mountain are so spectacular you almost don’t want too much single-track where you have to concentrate on the route and miss out on the scenery.”
He added that day one went through a vast variety of terrain as the farms encompassed more than just vineyards.
“There is great diversity such as olive orchards, cattle farms, lucerne fields and nuts,” said Herbst.
“There are one or two stings in the tail like a few gorges and tough climbs, but the guys will enjoy it.”
They were still finalising the waterpoints, but he added they would probably have four on the first day and three on the second.