This last weekend it was back to stage racing and back on the bike was my mate Evert Ferreira with whom I started my cycling journey with back in
2011. How things have changed as back then it was me who started cycling and now Evert is one trying to get back into mountain biking after not doing that for more than 3 years. He felt the pain and climbing stairs this week will still be painful. What made up for the grovel on the gravel was the fermented grape- aka wine tastings we worked into our trip.
The Gravel and Grape race is hosted by The Breedekloof Wine Valley with Iqela Events and this valley is a gem when it comes to, not only great wines but also awesome mountain biking. The routes are a combination of some gravel roads, farm roads through the vineyards, jeep tracks and some fantastic technical single track. This was a true test of proper mountain biking, which although some sections might have been tough for beginner riders the overall routes everyday made for great views and great riding.
Like way back with my 1st Wines2Whales we again came to know the Sweepers (Alex and Riaan this time) really well as we struggled on Day 1 up to the 50km mark, before Evert decided that sense would prevail and there was no need to punish his body any further and called it the day. Off I went pushing hard the last 23km’s to make sure I would make the 6 hour cut off. Grinding it out and pushing harder than at the Absa Cape Epic I actually managed to come in with half an hour to spare. The route was amazing and the combination as in the name of gravel roads, vineyards and testing single track makes this a must return to event.
After the punishment on the bike we decided to explore some wineries in the area and as per our Google search the previous night, off we went to Jason’s Hill Private Cellar. We were fortunate enough to meet the winemaker Ivy and just had to taste all the cultivars on offer. (Marius Hurter we can definitely go there for the Sauvignon Blanc, well for all the wine as Evert and I walked away purchasing stock for consumption when back in Cape Town).
From there we went on to Slanghoek Cellars and again just had to sample most of what they had on offer and again we walked away with stock for later consumption. What more does one want for a Saturday, great mountain biking in the morning, wine tasting in the afternoon and a braai (barbeque for my non South African friends) (2nd one) in the evening – the Perfect day….
With Ev’s body aching a bit after being back on the bike and he claiming his new MTB shoes are great for walking we endeavoured to take on stage 2 – 68km with 1100m of climbing. We started off through the vineyards and quickly onto a short technical single track and through the vineyards again past Du Toits Kloof Cellars onto some amazing trails that looped into the mountains and also where the Gravel and Grape Riders caught up with us: “pass, pass, pass…and so we let them pass”. With the undulating single track taking its toll on my partner, but him hanging in there enjoying every moment of being out on the bike, suffering and all, we reached the 2nd water point and regrouped with refuelling the bodies (the water points were amazing). From here we starting climbing onto a very technical switchback climb into the mountain and the strains of mountain biking started to take its toll again as the hard work and technicality proofed a challenge to my mate. We reached the split on the route where the long and Lite went its different ways and as Ev remarked” Castle Lite for me” and our ways parted and sense prevailed again and good choice by my mate because what followed was a proper technical climb and descent, followed by another climb onto a ridge and technically down a
valley – routes that were made for mountain biking and I loved it. It helps being fit and in shape as one can enjoy it so much more. I really loved day 2 of Gravel and Grape as we got properly tested again on our mountain biking skills, I did fail once however as I decided to take a dive off my bike and broke the fall with my quads on a rock. Not the best place to land as the dark blue / yellow mark on my leg would confess to. Still it was a great day out.
Another braai in the evening with watching some sport on TV whilst enjoying the local fermented grapes and another super day in Africa done. One should really look at doing this event next year; it really has a lot to offer on and off the bike. Day 3 was shorter with more single track on offer and the local Breedekloof Winery guys have really outdone themselves with some amazing trails that were built. Again one had to work your way upwards to enjoy it and in-between they took us onto the local Cross Country track that was built (on which our KTM sponsored rider, Johann Trotzky, trains a lot as it is in his backyard. Al the best to him and good luck to dad Hennus and the committee in getting a race hosted there shortly). I’m glad I am doing marathon riding as going up that XC track was super tough. From there we went up the mountain on single track again and Ev had to work hard again, but in good spirits and pushing forward, we arrived at the Lite and Long split. “See you at the finish Ev and make sure there is a cold beer” and we
parted ways and off I sped again to catch up with the guys in front. Again, super trails and great single track for our pure mountain bike enthusiasts, you have to get yourself out there and ride these trails. Big kudos for Evert that was willing to ride with me and reunite the original Phat Boy combination for this race. Huge respect for attempting it just as you entered the Vets category of cycling. It was great to be out on the trails with him again, always fun and we always keep on going.
Besides the coldish weather and cold water river crossing this was really a great weekend away for a boy’s breakaway or taking the whole family with to enjoy the facilities at Goudini Spa. Make sure you put this race on your calendar for 2017.
After the Cape Epic is has been really tough to keep self-discipline and stick to the healthy and right eating regime. I managed to get some training and events done, but how does one keep everything on the straight and narrow with temptations that were out on one’s path that started on the 2nd of April with a bachelors. No need to elaborate. This was followed by the wedding on the 9th that was followed by a 40th on the 16th. See where all this is heading as it did not stop there as the following weekend was the Cell C Arabella Challenge where good friends met and Wildekrans wine was on offer, there was some mountain biking as well and then after that on the 30th another epic 40th birthday party of abovementioned friend Evert and then of course this past weekend Gravel and Grape in the wine country with some 3 days of braaiing and so forth.
Needless to say that at this stage I am as reluctant as the other gender of the Homo sapiens specie after they have just turned 30 to climb onto a scale after showcasing your body weight…
Until the next adventure and be su
re to be on the lookout for the Cederberg 100miler in September, entries are open.