Pro mountain biker Chris Wolhuter takes on the second edition of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek and discovers that there’s no free pass on day one of this three-stage race. Click here to follow his journey on In the Bunch.
After a short flight into Port Elizabeth Airport, I was greeted by the friendly Unity in Africa team – the official race beneficiary of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek.
I was escorted to our shuttle, which would take us to the race village at Zuurberg Mountain Village perched high atop the infamous Zuurberg Pass.
With the course markers already out, the level of nervousness among the riders rose as we had our first view of the climb that would confront us in the morning.
My partner for the race, Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance), unfortunately didn’t have as smooth a travel day as I did; delayed flights meant that he only arrived at the race village at 8.30pm.
After a hearty dinner and a good night’s rest we were on the start grid for the first stage. The views encountered from a spin the evening before meant that I knew we were in for a treat with the scenery – when we weren’t bombing it down the finely crafted single-track or red-lining it in the hurt box with blurry vision.
Kevin Evans and Pieter Seyffert laid down the law on the first steep climb, Monty’s, up to the first water point. Andrew and I crested the climb in second and started the chase before being joined by the Isostar youngsters Jurgens Uys and Jason Meaton on the descent. The group rolled well together but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
A rougher section through a game farm brought rewards in terms of the game viewing, as we had a giraffe to animal-pace off for a few hundred metres. This was followed by a taste of the Hayterdale trails that await us later in the race.
And then there she lay, in all her might, Zuurberg Pass. We had closed the gap to Kevin and Pieter through Hayterdale and being just 25 seconds off them here, it was game on. They held us off and opened the gap to finish just over a minute ahead of us and win the stage with Isostar rounding out the podium in third.
The queen stage awaits tomorrow and I’m sure it will probably hurt a bit more than today. I’ll try to distract myself with the scenery when the opportunity allows.