While the Old Mutual joBerg2c doesn’t like to brag about how tough it is, or how demanding the ride is, or how amazing you have to be to finish it, it’s still a demanding mountain bike stage race. It may not bill itself as the toughest MTB race in the world, but you still need to be tough to get from Heidelberg to Scottburgh. That being said, with some inside info, you can take a lot of pain out of your ride.
Day 1 – Karan Beef (Heidelberg) to Frankfort Sports Grounds
The first day, from Heidelberg to Frankfort, is a neutral day. That means there are no results and everyone gets given the same time. The day’s riding is also relatively flat, so the trick here is to ease into the joBerg2c. You have eight days of racing to come; no need to go flat out from day 1. Take your time, enjoy the scenery, and feast like royalty at the marvellous water points (water point three, run by Bambi Nursery School, is a particular highlight). Be warned though, because day 1 is “flat”, you pedal all the way to Frankfort.
Day 2 – Frankfort School to Reitz Showgrounds
This is another relatively flat day (1001m of climbing), so the legs might be take some time to adjust. Depending on the weather, the start along the Wilge River can be brutally cold. The highlights of the day include water point 1 run by the Skewerkop Boere Vereeniging (there is enough boerewors to lasso the moon), the Boerbull Descent about 10km from the finish, and the Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary. The final few kilometres can be tough as you bounce along grassy singletrack, so save some energy.
Day 3 – Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam
This is a day blessed with a sublime singletrack trail called Jabulani and a rip-roaring descent down Mt Paul. That’s the good stuff, now for the bad stuff. With almost three days of riding in the legs, the final 30km of the day 3 can be quite tough. The climb up Mt Paul is somewhat taxing as is the gradual climb all the way from water point 2 to the peak of Mt Paul. Be prepared, depending on the wind direction, the last 5km along the Sterkfontein Dam wall can either be a pleasure or a pain. After some recent heavy rains, the dam currently sits at 90 percent capacity, which should make for pretty pictures.
Day 4 – Sterkfontein Dam to Emseni
The first 25km is beautiful but tough, and then the riding is just magnificent. You will literally feel like you are on the edge of the world. For 8km, including the top of Great Wall My China, on to the Great Traverse and down Bezuidenhout’s pass you will understand why you own a mountain bike and why you ride. Keep your shoulders relaxed, don’t tense up and let the bike do the work. The hardest part of day 4 is waking up and realising you still have six days to ride after three long days in the saddle. But once you’ve dealt with that fact, your mind and body become one. Enjoy this day, but save some energy for the last 20km so you can let loose on the sublime singletrack into Emseni.
Day 5 – Emseni to Clifton Nottingham Road
This day is billed as the toughest of the nine, but at the end of it all you’re rewarded with an excellent race village. The key to day 5 is to conserve energy, because the finish features some unpleasant uphill surprises. At 123km, it’s the longest day (by 1km over day 3), but by this stage of the joBerg2c you should be well and truly into your stage race legs.
Day 6 – Nottingham Road to Glencairn Farm
Actually, every race village is amazing. Day 6 is also a toughie, but the organisers know how to finish off the long days with stunning race village settings; this one gives you stunning views of the Drakensberg. By now you will be suffering from stage race brain; this is where your legs fire on the bike but once in the race village your brain shuts down. The key to survival here is to concentrate as hard as you can once off your bike, and if you think you’ve already brushed your teeth in the evening, you probably have.
Day 7 – Glencairn Farm to Mackenzie Club
At 82km, day 7 is seen as a rest day before the testing day 8. There is a lot of stunning, free-flowing singletrack on this day and not much climbing. The only thing that can scupper you here is if you’re not paying attention on the singletrack. Keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the exquisite trails.
Day 8 – MacKenzie Club (Ixopo) to Jolivet (Highflats)
This is a beast of a day featuring some of the best riding you will ever experience in your life. But with seven days already in the legs, it does provide some unique challenges, particularly the climb out of the Umkomaas Valley. A healthy breakfast is a prerequisite on this day, as is approaching the first half of the day with caution – it’s largely downhill, which can lead to a false sense of security. Pace yourself for a pleasurable penultimate pedal. If it’s hot, you might want to consider carrying extra water with you too. As it’s the last night of your journey (unless you intend sleeping on the beach after day 9), take a moment to enjoy the gees at the Jolivet race village.
Day 9 – Jolivet (Highflats) to Scottburgh
You’ve practically made it. The only thing to do now is go as hard as you can to the finish (although this is another neutral stage in 2017) to get your medal.
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