Former Olympic swimmer and gold medallist Ryk Neethling will be making a splash of a different sort when he climbs into the saddle for the inaugural Kia Val de Vie Estate Mountain Bike Challenge, presented by ASG, on September 16.

As marketing director for the polo, wine and lifestyle estate in the heart of the Paarl Valley, Neethling says sport plays an important role in promoting its offering.

“Val de Vie lends itself to an active, healthy lifestyle with the equestrian activities, swimming pool, gym and tennis courts as the focus.”

And now mountain biking has been added to the mix. “We are surrounded by beautiful mountains and have been exploring opportunities to do such an event for a couple of years now.”

The estate’s management team is very particular about its reputation, but everything fell into place when they hit on a winning combination in the form of race co-sponsors Kia and seasoned organisers ASG Events.

“We envisage this being a long-term partnership,” says Neethling.

“With this race we aim to attract everybody from the expert mountain biker to the novices, residents and young families ready for a great day out in the winelands.”

Race director Darren Herbst says the organisers have been working steadily on the project since they were first approached four months ago.

“The area is so beautiful and expanding into mountain biking is obviously a natural fit, so we’re very excited about it.”

Herbst believes the “rough and dirty” sport is a fantastic vehicle for showcasing the more accessible side of this exclusive estate. “Val de Vie has this prestigious aura about it; it’s an awesome aspirational brand but actually very inviting.”

Because it is aimed at luxurious and secure family living, he says the event will be similarly family-oriented and provide entertainment and racing for everyone.

Riders can opt for either the 60km feature race or 30km, depending on fitness levels and technical ability, and there will also be a 3km event for little ones.

According to Herbst, mountain biking in South Africa is now coming to a crossroads, with people becoming more selective of the events in which they take part.

“The trails we’ve got there are unbelievable. But that doesn’t help if the organisation and activities surrounding the race itself isn’t something special.”

The start/finish will be at the Val de Vie Polo Club and the course covers the estate and six neighbouring farms.

“It’s going to be very festive. We will have picnic areas in the middle of the field and as the guys come into the finish they will actually do a loop around the spectators and their supporters.”

Herbst says his crew is very busy cutting new trails and adapting existing paths, and that riders can look forward to taking on a section that is used in both the Absa Cape Epic and Columbia Grape Escape.

“Aside from that, the route is mostly on private land and we’ve gotten special permission from the owners. It’s going to be something that you don’t experience every day.”

He says both courses have a very rideable profile, with fast-flowing single track and something for everyone.

Participants will pass paddocks and polo fields, ride along the Berg River and various lakes and canals. It also passes through forests, vineyards and citrus orchards, among other surprises.

The 30km is mostly flat with minor undulations, although there are one or two challenging climbs in the Drakenstein mountains.

“It’s going to be tough getting up, but once the riders are over there’s a 3km descent waiting. They’re going to kiss us once they get to the finish!”

Herbst says the more challenging main race will follow the shorter one’s route for the first 15km before veering off into the mountains. “It has three or four extra hills with some great descents and technical sections.”

The event promises to live up to the quality and standards people expect from Val de Vie, with all the fun and adventure of a true mountain bike race, he says. “It’s going to be really amazing.”

To enter, visit Late entries will also be accepted on the morning of the race at the Val de Vie Polo Club.

Contact ASG Events on 076 621 1807 or for more information, or follow @CyclingnewsZA.

Issued by:

Coetzee Gouws
082 575 7991
041 368 4992

On behalf of:

Cyclingnews & ASG Events