If you think Mauritius is all about warm oceans, sandy beaches and cocktails, think again. Oli Munnik discovers that Mauritius is also an awesome mountain biking destination.
Images by Hayden Brown
Despite growing up in Cape Town, I’ve never been one for beaches. With an ocean that is teeth-chatteringly cold and the summer South Easter persistent enough to blow the entire beach into your bag, I have developed into more of a cat than a dolphin! So, when I got the call to travel to the island paradise of Mauritius I knew it was a chance to shed my cat like tendencies and embrace the ocean.
While snorkelling and swimming with dolphins (it’s a thing!) was a draw card of note, the reason for my Mauritian adventure was in fact to explore the Island’s mountain biking potential. This, while attending a press camp for Mauritius’ premier MTB stage race, the three day GRIT Colin Mayer Tour, which takes place later this year in October.
The Colin Meyer Tour name pays tribute to Colin Mayer who was a larger than life character in the Mauritian cycling fraternity. Known as ‘the boss of the peloton’ and a national TT champion, he tragically passed away in 2009 in a training accident.
Originally planned as the “Mountain to Sea” an informal discussion between cousins Pascal Pilot and Sebastien Bax de Keating revealed that ‘mountain’ and ‘sea’ translated into ‘col’ and ‘mer’ in French. This, in turn led them to making the connection to ‘Colin Mayer’, which phonetically combines col and mer. Right there and then, the Colin Mayer Tour was born.
The inaugural GRIT Colin Mayer Tour, held in 2016 hosted 195 riders from seven countries in a relaxed atmosphere that focused more on participation than competitiveness.
When chatting to route designer, Christophe Chasteau he stresses the fact that the event hinges on inclusiveness and the route is most certainly not designed to ‘kill you’ – although if you want to open the throttle, there is absolutely nothing stopping you! A single-day race and kids’ ride are bolted onto the final day’s schedule for those who can’t commit to three days of riding.
Held on the west coast of Mauritius at the Riverland Sports Club outside of Tamarin Bay, the local topography is dominated by a narrow coastal plain that leads into volcanic mountains. This provides a good mix of flat versus hilly riding as well as a diverse range of terrain – from coastal single-tracks to mountainous jeep tracks with volcanic rock offering good grip. There is something for everybody.
Taking riders through the area’s unspoilt natural environment, the 65km Stage 2 is regarded as the Queen Stage – not for brutality but rather for its beauty, most notably a section through what is otherwise an off-limits private nature reserve.
When it comes to October’s weather, the simple answer is that October is known in Mauritius as the ‘wedding month’ – which can only be a good thing! Conditions should be calm and dry with humidity at roughly 70 per cent. But as is always the case, it could rain, so be prepared for unseasonal weather, no matter how unlikely.
The race village will offer fresh-water bike washes (critical if you venture near the ocean), mechanic services, massages and, not-to-be-missed wine tasting! With South African Airways a sponsor, the event offers exclusive resort packages from R15 600 departing from O.R Tambo International – positioning it within the realm of local events when all costs are considered. Tented accommodation as well as surrounding hotels and apartments (pictured), are also available.
Looking back at our Mauritian adventure, I left the island thinking that the GRIT Colin Mayer Tour is ideal for riders looking for an experience (on and off the bike) they simply cannot get in South Africa. It would also appeal to those who would like to combine a family holiday with three days of not-too-strenuous mountain biking.
Oliver Munnik is a former professional mountain biker. Pinner by trade, he travels the world testing the latest and greatest cycling products as Bicycling’s Gear Editor.
Event details at a glance:
When: 13/14/15 October 2017
Where: West Coast of Mauritius
Stage 1: 65km
Stage 2: 65km
Stage 3: 40km
Prize Money: Rs 120 000 (+-R50 000)
For more info and to enter visit colinmayertour.com