Day three of the Old Mutual joBerg2c is what is termed a transition stage – which in bicycle stage racing generally means a fairly uneventful day, normally only necessary to get to the more interesting bits.
As usual, the 7am start in Reitz was pretty chilly, but we were warmed up by the time we reached the lions along the route – one of the signature features of stage three.
The riding was generally a lot more pleasant than the day before, especially since the wind seemed to have taken mercy on us.
The route also involved a lot more single-track than on previous days, although there were still a few long rolling district roads to contend with.
The first highlight was Jabulani’s single-track, a great flowing section along the Wilge River.
The other highlight, for me, was the infamous ascent of Mount Paul, at the top of which we were rewarded with our first sight of the Sterkfontein Dam race village.
The descent of Mount Paul proved exhilarating, or somewhat scary, depending on one’s bravery and technical abilities.
With the wind at last at our backs, the final few kilometres across Sterkfontein Dam wall (apparently the largest earth wall dam in the world) flew by.
The low level of the dam, another reminder of the serious drought, meant that for the first time the route took us into the finish right along the water’s edge – somewhat of a bone-shaking experience.
Michelle and I had quite a conservative day, particularly after we came to the conclusion that we overdid it in the first half of day two. As a result, we felt strong right until the end of the stage.
Even though we were a few places down on the day, we managed to stay in the top ten in the Lanham-Love Attorneys mixed category.
With the first of the big “downhill” days on the menu tomorrow, the riding does start to get a lot more interesting and enjoyable.
We’re looking forward to some great trails as we drop down the escarpment into KwaZulu-Natal.
Alistair Schorn has been racing bikes since the mid-80s – before most of today’s mountain bike pros were born. He bought his first mountain bike in 1992, but only took up stage racing after coming back from overseas in 2004. In early 2014, he was bitten by the singlespeed bug, which is still firmly entrenched in his system. His favourite places to ride include Mpumalanga and the Berg (definitely not on a singlespeed though!). As an escape from his day job as an economist, Alistair moonlights as a writer for publications such as In the Bunch.