Alistair Schorn experienced his best day ever on a mountain bike on stage eight of the 2015 Old Mutual joBerg2c. Here he shares the most memorable moments of the great Umkomaas River Valley stage. To read more about what came before, follow his Confessions of a Weekend Warrior on In the Bunch.
It seems impossible but the Old Mutual joBerg2c race village at MacKenzie Club in Ixopo in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands just keeps getting better.
This year saw the addition of a chill zone in the main marquee as well as a new bike park, both of which helped to improve the riders’ experience and the ease of getting bikes washed, sorted out and stowed away.
For us as riders, it’s great to see the ongoing improvements that add to our experience and also the benefits that our participation in events such as joBerg2c, sani2c and Berg & Bush brings to the local communities. To my mind, this really is a big draw card in terms of participating in these events.
In any event, on to what is probably the best and most varied mountain bike race route in the world, and a big part of the reason that joBerg2c and sani2c enjoy the reputation that they do.
Farmer Glen decided that, because of the length of the course and the anticipated heat of the day, we needed to get on the road especially early. This meant that the first group of riders started at 6.30am – basically as soon as it was light enough to see where they were going.
With 10 minutes between batches, things were generally well enough spread out by the time we got to the top of the fabled Umkomaas Valley and the stupendous singletrack sections that would take us right down to the valley floor. At the top, we could look down on the clouds of mist hanging over the river, hundreds of metres below us.
I took my time heading down the singletracks, stealing a glance at the views whenever I could, but generally making sure I stuck to the mantra of “where you look is where you go”.
It seems the route down did claim a few victims as well; I saw a couple of riders who seemed to have had some nasty crashes, and I also saw one guy clambering down a very steep incline in pursuit of his bike . . .
Once again, riding through the various communities that live along the route, it’s obvious that events such as the joBerg2c have had a major positive impact in terms of the infrastructure and levels of income that are available in these communities.
The rest of the route took us along the river, through immaculately maintained farms and abandoned land-claimed farms, then on some really challenging climbs out of the valley, until we started getting into the forest sections that signified we were getting closer to our destination.
Finally, after one of the most satisfying 100km that one can ever do on a mountain bike, we were warmly welcomed at the revamped and revitalised Jolivet Farm.