The Addo Elephant National Park on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth is fast becoming a mountain biking hotspot and plans are afoot to attract enthusiasts of this rapidly growing, eco-friendly sport.
The Big Seven reserve, which has hosted The Herald VW Cycle Tour’s mountain bike challenges since 2008, is the only national park to hold three competitive mountain bike races annually.
The Herald VW Cycle Tour’s mountain bike challenges will once again kick off Addo’s racing calendar (February 5) next year. The Kabouga event follows in June with the Mondi Herald Addo Mountain Bike Challenge in October.
“We currently have no formal recreational or guided mountain bike trails but are looking into it,” said Sanparks Frontier Region marketing and communications manager Megan Taplin.
She said, however, that informal mountain biking was permitted in the Kabouga section of the park near Kirkwood.
As a host and sponsor of The Herald VW Cycle Tour, Addo provides a breathtaking backdrop for the mountain biking events. This year features three races: the 85km Extreme Challenge, 65km Challenge and 42km Schools’ and Family Challenge.
Taplin said her office had received a lot of positive feedback following the introduction of the technically demanding Extreme Challenge. “The longer course is quite tough but people loved the experience of riding through a national park.”
Race director Shane Bradfield said this year’s feature event would again head into the heart of the Zuurberg mountains.
“Riders will go over the historic pass and into the Zuurberg Nature Reserve, which is part of Addo. This is a top-end race with a lot of steep climbs and sharp descents to test experienced riders.”
He said the course was spectacular and apart from the 21 switchbacks on the pass it featured 20km of single track.
According to Bradfield, the 65km Challenge would be ideally suited to the everyday mountain biker. “After ascending the pass halfway, riders turn off into the nature reserve.”
He said the 42km event, which meanders through valley bushveld and citrus orchards, was aimed at the whole family and could be done at a leisurely pace. “It’s a fairly undemanding route without much climbing.”
Taplin said some of the Addo staff would act as marshals on the day and armed game rangers would be on standby along the routes to ensure the safety of riders.
“We fly over the respective courses before and during the race. It is easier to spot game in the dense thicket from the air and we will chase away any dangerous animals.”
Although participants in the 85km Extreme Challenge and 65km Challenge would ride along a short section of fence-line through big game territory, Taplin said it was unlikely that they would see anything other than small mammals and birds.
The mountain bike events – including the 5km Powerade Kiddies’ Challenge and Toddlers’ Dash – will start and finish at the race village at the Addo Polo Club.
On the same day, the Powerade-sponsored 30km Family Challenge, 3km Kiddies’ Challenge and 600m Toddlers’ Dash will take place at Hobie Beach in PE in aid of the Reach for a Dream charity.
The Herald VW Cycle Tour, a national classic contested over 105km, will start from the same venue on February 6.
Entry forms are available from cycling shops in Nelson Mandela Bay or register online at www.heraldcycletour.co.za.
Tour sponsors are: Action Cycles, Addo Elephant National Park, Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World, Bukani Print, Gardmed, Life St George’s Hospital, Mountain Rescue Club, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Powerade, Tony’s Appliances and Beds and Town Lodge.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
The Herald VW Cycle Tour