Between ravaging fires and devastating floods, Mother Nature did her best – or worst – to derail this year’s EAI Val de Vie MTB Challenge in September.
But the hardy organisers from ASG Events pressed on and the event, presented by Bestmed, will finally roll out across 21 farms in the Cape Winelands between Franschhoek and Paarl on November 24.
“It was a very difficult decision to postpone the event but a necessary one,” says event director and route planner Darren Herbst.
“This truly is a special race, but to ensure the safety of riders and the quality of the event, we had to call it off.”
The new date means the event will act as the ideal curtain raiser for Africa Bike Week, which follows in Stellenbosch.
“The Western Cape will become a cycling Mecca for that week – it’s going to be an amazing time.”
Herbst says the trouble started earlier this year with runaway fires that destroyed the trees and vegetation on the mountainsides.
“This affects not only the ecosystems but also water retention capabilities.”
Add to that a few hundred millimetres of rain in the two weeks leading up to race day and the scene was set for a disaster of epic proportions.
“We spent months searching and manicuring trails in the area and about 70 per cent of these were washed away or damaged beyond repair.
“Sections of the route just disappeared under water – it was crazy!”
The intrepid route builders adopted an appropriate c’est la vie attitude and pressed on with the necessary repairs and changes as soon as the ground began to dry out.
“This event has so many special features and we’re confident that 99 per cent of them will be ready in time for the event,” says Herbst. “This area is like an oil painting.”
He says a special feature is that the race crosses fenced private property, which is not accessible at any other time.
Herbst says both the 30km and 60km routes, which start and finish at the exclusive Val de Vie Polo Club, are aimed at the social rider.
“But make no mistake, it isn’t easy.”
The total elevation for each of the routes is 300m and 950m respectively.
Highlights include some world-class single track and spectacular descents as riders criss-cross more than 30 vineyards and a secured section of a Cape Nature protected area.
“A section of the route also goes through the Drakenstein Prison where Nelson Mandela was held. Cyclists will get to see where he lived and also ride through a working prison.”
Herbst says water points will once again be talking points
“We have teams from Virgin Active, Vrede Foundation, Raw Nutrition, Scheckter’s Organic Energy, some of the landowners and a host of others en route to make the stops fun.
“Believe me, there’s not just water and energy drinks.”
The Val de Vie Market will keep spectators occupied while they wait for their riders to cross the finish line.
With more than a thousand participants having taken part in the inaugural event last year, Herbst says organisers are expecting “significant growth” this year.
About R150 000 worth of prizes, including cash, Rudy Project eyewear and helmets, iON action cameras and more will be up for grabs. The organisers are donating R10 from each entry to Cansa.
Those riders who signed up for the original date but cannot be on the start line in November will be eligible for a refund, says Herbst.
Enter online here before November 17.
Mountain bikers can enjoy great riding through the Cape Winelands at the EAI Val de Vie MTB Challenge, presented by Bestmed, on November 24.
Photo: Paul Nielsen