I sat on my bike, surrounded by fellow riders, listening to Chris giving us the run down on the course for the day, but wondering what really lay ahead. This was the start of the 2 day Ride the Berg event and there was now no going back.
Chris emphasised the fact that we were riding in very special surroundings and suggested we all take some time to look around whilst riding and to “drink in” the wonderful atmosphere that we were privileged to be riding in.
Gee whiz was he correct. I was riding with two mates on the first day and we made a pact to stick together and do exactly what Chris suggested and enjoy the day. We experienced the day to its fullest taking time out to enjoy being surrounded by the Mighty Drakensberg
The course itself was awesome starting off with the “Long Easy “along the banks of the Tugela. This part of the course was nice and flat with the added advantage of having a strong tail wind, although knowing that at some stage we were going to have to ride back into the wind!
We wound our way along the mighty Tugela, eventually starting to climb away from the river towards the mountains surrounding the Berg House Resort. Just before the main ascent we were welcomed by the people of the Langkloof Village and more specifically the children of the local school. What a welcome we received. It is something I will always remember. A most humbling experience!
We climbed up on the beautifully manicured, but at times tricky trail cut out of the mountains, until we reached the private Berg House road. We were then up and over, now facing the full force of a strong wind, onto a path which took us swooping down back into the valley, not before being welcomed by the Berg House owners and staff at a wonderfully stocked refreshment point.
Down into the valley at speed , across a small tributary and then began the long upwards trek back to All Out Adventures, eventually arriving after covering a fantastic 50km, to a wonderful reception at the All Out grounds, our only enemy being the relentless headwind which fought us for the second half of the day.
A wonderful experience made even more special because of the fact that we did not really race the course but as mentioned earlier, took our time to suck in the atmosphere.
Onto the second day, which judging by the race profile was going to be a brute of 50 kms.
Did it turn out to be a brute, oh yes it did, made even harder because of the fact that we decided that this was race day!!! We were going to challenge the course and ride hard.
Off we went to a flying down- hill start which turned out to be one of the few really fast sections, apart from the Montusi summit and the steep downhill to Mont Aux Sources and then another steep drop, complete with a rock garden of note, down to the Tugela River below Mont Aux Sources. For the rest it was a hard testing grind with the climb through the Grotto up and past the Cavern Resort probably being the most difficult.
My mate and I were flying along, having one of those brilliant days where the further we travelled into the race, the stronger we seemed to get until ” bang” my mate experienced a spectacular blow out on the tricky, winding paths between the Cavern and Mont Aux Sources. One of the unforeseen enemies of Mountain Biking. Three bombs, two perished spare tubes and then finally a very kindly borrowed tube, later, we were off again but having lost a good 15 minutes with all the riders we had passed earlier flying past us. We were disappointed but doubly determined to make up lost ground and attacked the course on a revenge mission. This was the section of the course that you could attack to the point of almost being reckless on some of the steep downhill sections, but boy was it fun.
We flew along the valley below Hlalanathi, up to the road and then covered the final 3 km’s between Hlalanathi and All Out at record speed sweeping into the finish, once again to a fantastic welcome.
We were tired as opposed to the first day but satisfied knowing we had given it all a full go. The finish with various vendors providing delicious refreshments had an awesome vibe which epitomised the magic experience of the 2 days.
All Out Adventures deserve a huge pat on the back for organising this amazing event paying attention to the smallest detail with regards to the trail routes, the manicuring of the trails, the seconding tables and the finish entertainment and refreshments.
A fantastic experience which I highly recommend. If you are in love with Mountain Biking and want a bit of everything from technical, to fast downhill’s, to rugged climbing, then this is the event for you.
(Photo – Geoff Logan)