The Liberty Waterberg MTB Encounter looks set to become a permanent date on the South African mountain biking calendar after receiving high praise from inaugural winner Gertjie Harmse.
The three-day race, which took place near Bela-Bela in Limpopo at the weekend, is the second leg of the Encounter Series and follows the success of the Winelands MTB Encounter in the Western Cape.
Harmse and Devan Kruger, riding in the colours of SST-Clotan, took first place after completing the event in a time of 10:59:33.
Organisers ASG Events said their focus was not just on victory, but all that the race had to offer.
Facing a crash of rhinos with just your bicycle as an exit strategy, tackling new trails in challenging conditions and then being able to retire to luxury accommodation provided all the elements of a modern mountain bike event, said Harmse.
“I thought the organisers did a tremendous job,” he said.
“The route markings were great, the sand was raked to make the route ‘easier’ at places and tracks were made where none existed.”
The route planners negotiated with game farm owners in the region to pass through their land, exposing participants to the Waterberg biosphere and animals they would not normally encounter in similar races.
“A few of us were lucky enough to have a memorably close encounter with a group of rhinos on day two,” said Harmse.
He said he thought the approach to cater for a largely corporate field was a great idea, but felt the route should be tweaked depending on the organisers’ target market.
“Although the competition between the corporate types is at times as fierce as between the pros, they also enjoy the social aspect.”
Harmse said the venue, food and accommodation provided at the Sondela and Zebula race villages were all fantastic.
He said he had no doubt it had the potential to become a “must do” race.