Merrell Tsitsikamma MTB Challenge 2012

EDIT: apparently lots of people are looking for results, you can find them here.

With the prospect of doing the Dr Evil Classic in September this year, I decided the best way to be ready for it would be to try maintain and improve on the fitness level I had for this year’s Argus. So a while ago I heard about the Tsitsikamma MTB Challenge. The race takes place just down the road and I managed to get a friend on board too.

We opted to give the 72km ‘marathon’ route a go and camp there the night before. So 6 o’clock on Friday evening, three of us headed off to the camping ground. The base for the event was at the Tsitsikamma Adventure Falls. When we got there we went to registration and were told we can just camp wherever we could find a spot.

at least there was a pretty view to start the day

This turned out trickier than expected, and none of us were quite sure where they were going to fit in the 300 campsites advertised. It seems like only 20 or so groups were camping so we found a spot and got the tent up. Then we were woken up at 4:30 the next morning with people packing for the water points. Not ideal, but besides that, the rest of the event was great.

The race started at 7:30 with the 72km riders and was followed shortly by the shorter 42 and 23km rides. First 10km were all jeep track that lead up to several short single track sections through dips and some water. This is where a few of the top 42km riders caught up to us. Some more jeep track and we were at the first water point where the 23km route turned off. The next water point was only at the 40km mark, after some decent ups and downs. The water point here even offered a welcome beer to those so inclined.

10km on was the next water point shortly after which we crossed under the N2 and headed off up the hills. This was one point where there were cyclists riding in both directions. The marshalls did well to separate everyone though. A bit of a stretch next to the N2 and the final ‘major’ hill lead us up to the last water point. Down the other side, a little bit of single track back under the N2 and we were on the home stretch.

‘low gear’? More like no gear :(

From here we did a bit of a loop back around to the start point where we finished shortly after 11:30. A shower and some food later lead to the prize giving. Quick packup and it was on the road back home.

Results aren’t out yet, but we reckon we did somewhere around 4hr15min (edit: 4hr12m22s was the official time). I was quite chuffed with this, but when compared to the winning time of 2hr31min, it may not seem like as much of an achievement.

Overall it was a really fun ride. There wasn’t as much technical or single track as I would have liked, although it can lead to frustration when getting stuck behind someone or holding other people up. The route was well marked, and there were only one or two points where we were slightly unsure whether we were on the right road. Not the toughest 72km I’ve done, but a really nice ride through a stunning area.

Thanks to Merrell and the other sponsors for a great event, look forward to doing it again next year with any other events they have planned.

Also, my bike was amazing. 15 year old Giant Iguana is still going strong. I need to do some work on it, but it got me through the day, even with the tyre delaminating slightly. The three of us were also very fortunate with a complete lack of punctures over the entire route.

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