Just minutes before the start of the 2nd annual Potberg & De Hoop MTB challenge, organizers of the event, Garden Route Events – a Knysna-based company, were alerted to the devastating news of a raging fire burning down the finish destination at neighboring De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Riders set off for the first stage 75km race anxious and unaware of what to expect at the race finish – the pristine venue which had fed most participants breakfast barely an hour earlier and provided a race village extraordinaire the previous evening.
What transpired at the end was unbelievable. Within 3 hours, owners Nini and William Stephens of De Hoop Collection had managed to relocate the dining venue – despite the entire restaurant and kitchen, pub and reception area being razed to the ground. The grassed area under the magnificent Fichus trees played the unexpected host to the hungry finishers. Said one amazed rider, “I can’t believe how they pulled this off in such a remote area, most of us wouldn’t be able to feed our own families under these catastrophic circumstances, yet they have served 150 of us in true style!”
Bridges have been custom–built over farm fences joining neighboring farms, and local participation and community involvement have led to the creation of a fluid, continuous route that leads riders along the Breede River Conservancy to the Sijnn wine water table 1 located alongside the biggest olive farm in the southern hemisphere. From there riders traversed the Potberg Mountain along purpose-built single-track towards the sea, where the best land-based whale watching site in the southern hemisphere is located. The almost extinct Cape Vulture was seen by many cyclists en route to the Agri water point at Ouplaas as they rode through the Canola plantations which were in full bloom. It was Justin Tuck who descended into the De Hoop Collection with a winning time of 2h44min.
Stage 2 on Sunday was a 52km loop around the De Hoop Nature Reserve and along the Melkvlei which was at its highest water level in the last decade. There, the Hammer Nutrition water point welcomed riders after they had to cross a flooded causeway with caution. Mitchells Brewery welcomed the riders in at De hoop collection where each finisher was given a bottle of Sijnn Low Profile wine for their efforts.
The overall men’s podium was taken by Justin Tuck in a time of 4h45min. The men’s second place was taken by Brandon Willcocks of Knysna and in third place and hot on his heels was Greame van der Nest from PE. Esteemed Marleen Lourens comfortably took the ladies first place in a time of 6h09min, with Lesley Mallon and Claudia Schonitz, both from Cape Town coming in tie at second/third place overall with an total riding time 7h37min
The second edition of the race saw triple the number of entries from 2013 and was sold out months ago due to the limited accommodation and high demand of riders to experience this magnificent destination on a mountain bike. “Next year, we will make sure that there is more accommodation available so that we don’t have to turn so many riders away,” said race director Pax Mosterd. Due to accommodation restraints in the area, the field will always be small and maintain the personal touch. He urged those keen to participate next year to diarize the opening date for 2015 in order to avoid disappointment. Preferred entries to this year’s participants only will be open from 1 – 7 Sept. Thereafter, any remaining entries will be made available to the general public.
Race photos are available here (all images at this link are by Julie Pragnall Photography).