Ride Report: The U MTB Stage Race

About two hours north of Cape Town the winding Versveld Pass takes you up into the hidden town of Piket-Bo-Berg. Nestled atop the mountain the beautiful Moutons Valley Farm provided the venue for The U, a two-day mountain bike stage race which took place from 14 - 16 October 2016. Photos by Chris Hitchcock

 

After having utterly confused Google Maps along the valley roads, we turned to instinct (and the unmissable sign posts) to find our way to the race village for the inaugural “The U” MTB Stage Race. Arriving at the Moutons Valley Farm in Piket-Bo-Berg we were taken aback by the setting. Surrounded by rocky, fynbos-clad koppies and blossoming apple trees and set alongside a dam our race village was nothing short of idyllic.

 

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After a painless registration, we unpacked the car and contemplated what could be a very lazy afternoon beside the dam. Beanbags, stand up paddleboards and kayaks were among the many distractions on offer (not to mention the beer).

 

The Prologue


Before we got too comfortable, we decided that we best have our turn on the 6 km Prologue course. It was an optional part of the event, only influencing seeding batches for the following day.

 

After a short briefing from Rickus we set off to experience some of the Piket-Bo-Berg trails. The short course took us through some fast, winding pine trails in between the apple orchards and up onto the rocky hills behind camp. Some sharp inclines woke up the legs and lungs before we descended back towards the village. A little taster of what was to come, the tight switchbacks, rocky drops and punchy climbs had us excited.

 

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Episode 1


The first stage of The U took us on a 47 km ride with around 1300m of climbing. Having been warned by those who had done the test ride in 2015, I knew that the relatively short distance was not to be taken lightly. With 95% single track on the day and a long climb up the old Ossewa (Ox Wagon) pass, there were few “free” kilometers on offer.

 

Leaving camp we soon found ourselves winding up the hillside along rocky trails. Gentle climbs and the occasional downhill, with a good helping of switchbacks brought us to a not-so-floaty floating bridge. We had been warned not to dawdle across this and as we arrived we saw two victims clambering out the other side of the dam. Realising my make-shift cellphone pouch was not up for swimming, once the bridge was clear, I opened up the gas to scamper across with my dryness, and dignity intact.

 

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More fun, twisty rocky trails took us to the start of the Livingstone descent. Dropping down over 4 km we encountered just about every type of trail imaginable: steep, sandy, and rocky sections which made way for firm and fast grass lined tracks and finally into a dense and damp forest trail.

 

As “punishment” for our indulgence on the downhill, the Ossewa pass found us grinding our way back up the close on 500m we had just dropped. At this point, my 1x10 (34/40) caused some hurt on what would otherwise be a comfortably manageable climb.

 

At the top, we guzzled down something cold at the waterpoint and set off. The now tired legs laboured up the punchy climbs as we continued to slowly ascend through the farms and quickly into more remote valleys and more single track. There was so much great riding it’s tempting to describe the whole route. The selection of technical rocky climbs, fast and flowy descents, and tight switchbacks seemed endless until finally we popped out among familiar orchards in sight of our camp.

 

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2016-10-15_TheU_Day_2_(289_of_306).jpgThe "Caveman" Conrad Stoltz taking some time out for a bit of fly fishing

 

Episode 2


The second stage was just short of 50km with 1100m of climbing. Said to be an easier, faster day we were excited to explore more of the single track sanctuary that is Piket-Bo-Berg. After some light rain overnight and cool conditions on the day, this episode was all about hard packed rocky trails. We traversed over rocky slabs, through outcrops of rocks, over bridges and all over the surrounding peaks. A look at the Strava map from the day and you’ll see just how much of the mountain we covered.

 

Again there was so much to enjoy it’s difficult to describe the day without producing a mini-thesis. The imagination of the trail builders is truly remarkable. Sections which to most would look impassable by bike have been transformed into the most incredibly intricate nest of mountain bike goodness with a few well-placed rocks, gravel and the occasional bridge.

 

Although the stage did not include any big climbs the general trend for the first half of the day was definitely an upward one. After traversing the koppies of Sonop, Moses and Gryskop we finally began to descend, starting with a fast and loose section aptly named “Suicide Run”. With close on 100km of Piket-Bo-Berg trails under the belt we were attuned to the terrain. It was a bittersweet moment as the final sections through The Canyon and Porcupine Avenue went by bringing a close to a weekend of rewarding mountain biking surrounded by great people with great food in a postcard worthy setting.

 

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21 Comments

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 03:22

Awesome spot!
Great event.

Hairy, Oct 20 2016 03:32

awesome photo's Mr Hitchcock!

Jewbacca, Oct 20 2016 03:35

Awesome spot!
Great event.

The back sweeper was a bit of a nana though!!

 

Seriously though, what an event. The people were rad, the trails are amazing and the gees fantastic..

 

Straight back onto my calendar for next year.

Slowbee, Oct 20 2016 06:33

what camera was used for these pics ?

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 06:38

Some pics from Episode 1

in Picture 4 and 8 one can see the singletrack going up on 4 and down in 8 in the background


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Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 06:40

Some pics From episode 2


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Slowbee, Oct 20 2016 06:50

blixem, that looks ama..zing !

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 06:57

blixem, that looks ama..zing !

The pictures barely does it justice

 

what camera was used for these pics ?

can try and contact the Man himself. Truly a great Photographer 

http://www.chrishitchcock.co.za/

http://www.photospor...Race/487/page1/

 

The back sweeper was a bit of a nana though!!

 

Seriously though, what an event. The people were rad, the trails are amazing and the gees fantastic..

 

Straight back onto my calendar for next year.

Please be better dressed next year the outfit where atrocious 

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 07:00

The back sweeper was a bit of a nana though!!

 

Seriously though, what an event. The people were rad, the trails are amazing and the gees fantastic..

 

Straight back onto my calendar for next year.

Please be better dressed next year, the racing outfits were atrocious 

 

blixem, that looks ama..zing !

Words and pictures cant really do the place and event justice

Slowbee, Oct 20 2016 07:01

what was the accommodation like ?

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 07:12

the normal entry has a 2 man tent with foam matress

there is also an upgrade available with canvas tents on platforms , facing the dam with proper beds and chairs to lounge in aftewards

 can few all Mr Hitchcocks photos of the event here

http://www.photospor...Race/487/page1/

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 07:19

Luxury tent


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Slowbee, Oct 20 2016 07:30

right going to show the Mrs this !

 

That tent should clinch the deal..... assuming I am not still cycling from Bloem....

EmptyB, Oct 20 2016 07:53

Looks very appealing...pity it's so fecking far from Jozi!!

Matchstix, Oct 20 2016 07:56

If people can travel to ct to the Cape Town cycle tour. . This indescribable better. . .

Koei, Oct 20 2016 08:46

What! - no complaints about congested single tracks or dirt roadies?? Obviously this isn't a real MTB race!  :ph34r:

 

Super jealous.

TooFatforEpic, Oct 21 2016 11:04

As a back of the field battler this was tough. Some of the best riding I've ever done in a race. I'll be back next year, hopefully a bit fitter to enjoy the amazing single track more.

Headshot, Oct 21 2016 01:09

Looks awesome!

Jewbacca, Oct 21 2016 01:44

As a back of the field battler this was tough. Some of the best riding I've ever done in a race. I'll be back next year, hopefully a bit fitter to enjoy the amazing single track more.

Ha!

 

See you again next year! We will try to be better dressed in 2017 and maybe wear tighter jeans.....

Matchstix, Oct 21 2016 01:59

The only way you can wear tighter jeans is if you paint them on. . .

Bibi, Oct 23 2016 01:13

Perfect for trail bikes