The feature mountain bike event that forms part of next year’s The Herald Volkswagen Cycle Tour weekend has received a major facelift to elevate its status to one of the toughest in the Eastern Cape.
According to race director Shane Bradfield, a new and particularly technical route covering 85 kilometres from the Addo National Elephant Park has been added to this year’s itinerary. In previous years, the premier event was over a distance of 65km.
“Last year the feature race was 65 kilometres and it didn’t pose an exceptional technical challenge to the riders,” said Bradfield.
He added that although the 65-kilometre distance would once again be on the race menu on Saturday, January 31, next year, the addition of the longer and more arduous route would afford experienced riders the challenge they were looking for.
“The mere distance already makes it challenging,” said Bradfield. “If you couple that with the steep climbing and technical single track and downhill sections, the course should prove to be a handful even for the top riders.”
Bradfield said a portion through a river bed, which could turn into a mud bath should it rain, as well as the historic Zuurberg Pass – used by ox wagons to ferry goods from Algoa Bay to Grahamstown in the 19th century – would form part of the new route.
“Although the pass comes early on (just after the 10-kilometre mark), its gradient and length (about six kilometres) should see a natural selection of the pack.”
The Addo elephant park and Zuurberg Pass offer a unique and very scenic backdrop to the mountain bike events, according to Bradfield. “The public don’t often get the chance to cycle through a national park that hosts the Big Seven.”
He added that armed game rangers would patrol all the routes to ensure cyclists’ safety.
According to Megan Taplin, South African National Parks’ communications manager for the Frontier Region, 2009 will be the second year that Addo will host the mountain bike section of the The Herald VW Cycle Tour.
She said due to the fact that the routes were mapped out in the mountainous area of the park, it was unlikely that riders would encounter animals other than antelope and an abundance of bird life.
Gardmed will deploy paramedics on quads and a 4×4 ambulance to look after the riders’ safety. The Mountain Rescue Club of South Africa will have a helicopter on stand-by to reach areas that are off the beaten track.
Besides the main event, participants will be able to choose from two other distances (42 and 65km respectively), all starting from the elephant park.
On the same day, The Boardwalk in Port Elizabeth will host the MTR Smit 30km Family Fun Ride and the Reach for a Dream Kiddies’ Challenge. The Herald VW Cycle Tour, which covers 105km, and the 75km Schools and Open Challenge will take place the following day from the same venue.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Avusa (The Herald)