Rider Blog: Ultimate Umko At joBerg2c
Every day is a different experience at the Old Mutual joBerg2c. In the four that I have done over the past five years, it’s quite obvious that the event organisers have gone out of their way to make the rider experience something that people will talk about long after the event is over.
For my money, days four and six offer almost everything a mountain biker could ask for – but then along comes day eight, the famed drop into the Umkomaas Valley. It has everything and more.
Almost everyone with a mountain bike has done the Sani2c, so most will be familiar with the Umko Drop. But you forget how stunning, how thrilling and how much fun the ride is.
When you come around the first corner of the switch back descent and see the entire valley below, it’s a truly jaw-dropping moment.
And it only gets better. Riding through the valley itself is another unique challenge, with river crossings, bridges, steep climbs out of rivers and singletrack all combing to test your MTB ability. Usually it’s blistering hot and humid too, but this year we were blessed with cool, overcast conditions. In fact, the entire 2018 joBerg2c had perfect weather.
To get out of the valley, there is now also the “Iconic Climb”, added last year to create yet another talking point (and allegedly a quicker way out of the valley) to an already incredible ride.
Iconic is a long, steep, rocky and loose ascent from the valley floor, it got the best of me this year – and in fact at the race village dinner that night, only a handful of people stood up when the MC asked who had conquered the climb.
Conquering is not the theme of the joBerg2c, though (unless you count conquering the wide variety of beers available at the Nottingham Road Brewery beer truck).
Yes, it’s long, and it’s tough, and some of the days can grind your mind into paste and make your bum feel like that time in standard four when the phys ed teacher could only control the class with a wooden tennis bat.
But what really sets this ride apart is the coming together of disparate parts. The route, the people, the race villages, the food, the water points, the scenery, the grumbles from kilometre 85 onwards, the whoops of delight on singletrack descents, all combine to create a uniquely South African ride, a ride where a recovery shake is bottom of mind and the “where’s the beer” is the first question asked after completing a stage.
To complete the journey in style, the event now also features a neutral ninth day. The final day is an 85km jaunt to Scottburgh, still a fair distance, but with not much climbing and not too many technical challenges. The hardest part of the day is the hangover from the night before.
In the spirit of what the organisers call a “champagne” stage, we celebrated long and hard into the night after completing day eight. So if I had to rank the days, day nine would be the hardest, purely because everything tasted like beer from start to finish.
In all, nine days and 910km ridden in 55 hours (ja, look, that’s slow, but what the hell. It’s all about the journey).