Avis Van Rental’s Alistair Schorn believes that stage eight of the Old Mutual joBerg2c is one of the most complete days a mountain biker can experience. Read Confessions of a Weekend Warrior to learn why.
The penultimate stage of the Old Mutual joBerg2c, which features the incredible drop into the Umkomaas River valley, is probably the one that riders look forward to most.
This part – which is hand-cut and maintained by the local communities – comes early on and takes riders along almost 20km of single-track right down onto the valley floor.
The stage route then follows the Umkomaas, crossing the water at a couple of points to let riders experience the best of the trails in the valley.
The downside to all of this magnificent riding, of course, is that having had the pleasure of riding down into the valley, riders then need to get out of the valley, which is where the pain starts.
For most, the middle section of the stage was something of a war of attrition, with the memories of the exhilarating ride down into the valley a distant memory.
Most of the riders around us looked to be surviving rather than racing – riding their own pace through the heat and the hills to get out of the valley.
Some of the sections of the climb were also probably among the most remote areas that we have ridden through during the entire event.
Eventually, after what felt like several hours of slogging, we started to get back into the plantations, where some shade and single-track provided welcome relief.
The last few kilometres seemed to fly past as we approached the welcoming hospitality of Jolivet farm.
As on any other day, there were of course a few guys who didn’t make it all the way to the race village.
On the way down into the Umkomaas valley, we passed a few victims of the trails. And it seems the last section of the stage, a specially-built concrete path next to the main tar road, also claimed a few victims.
To my mind, day eight of the joBerg2c is one of the most complete days of mountain biking one can experience – a test of technical skills, endurance and concentration for pretty much the entire 100km.
As a result, it’s easy to see why this stage holds such appeal in all the events in which it is included.
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.