The route for the Liberty TransCape MTB Encounter has a new starting venue in George, which route director Wayne Collett believes has allowed them to add much diversity to the event.
The seven-stage mountain-bike race, powered by Volvo, takes place from February 2 to 9 from George to Franschhoek in the Western Cape.
In previous years, the distance covered has been over 650km, but next year’s route of 591km has enabled the organisers to alter some of the longer stages.
Collett said the start in George had allowed them to add diversity to the trails, as well as several new elements.
“Previously, the first three days were characterised by relatively long stages because of the overall distance you had to cover,” he said.
“But now there is no stage much longer than 100km and that means it is a little easier, allowing us to do a few things differently.”
Starting in George meant they were able to add terrain diversity to the race by bringing the Klein Karoo back into the mix, said Collett.
“This year the Klein Karoo was not part of the route, but now you have three distinct sections on the opening day.
“First you have the coastal character of the George region, before going over Montagu Pass, which provides a different element altogether.
“Once you have crossed the mountain, you descend into the Karoo and that, of course, offers you something else again, with its semi-arid conditions.”
He added there would be plenty of farmlands the riders would traverse, plus some of the iconic single-track sections on the last stage through the Cape Winelands.
With the corporate world a big target market, Collett said they had designed the route to ensure nobody “had to break their back”.
However, he was quick to add that “easier” did not mean it was “easy”.
“We have tried to keep every stage to under 100km,” he said. “There are some just over that distance but, if you are well prepared, it is something everyone should be able to handle.”
He did have a warning for the cyclists, though, in terms of the weather.
“You really need to expect everything and anything in this race,” he said, “because you will get everything, from extreme heat to rain and cold, as well as wind in some of the high areas.”
Collett added that the only technical section would come in the final stage when half the route was devoted to single-track.
“It is not so hectic that a rider might have to push for kilometres, but there are some hairpins which can test you.”