We spoke to race founder “Farmer” Glen Haw about a few route additions, and we chatted to some riders only too keen to reminisce about sani2c. Farmer Glen says that after fifteen years, the trails are very well established but that every year they manage to make further improvements.
“We have done a few small tweaks to Day 1”, he says. “If you know the route you will see why we have made these changes, it is generally done to create more flowy track.”
“On Day 2 after the Maritzburg College Water Table, we have added another 5kms next to the river and skipped a 1,5km climb. We have called this Woody’s Burn after the farmer whose land we are on in that section, Mike Woodburn.”
Mike is chuffed that the route change will help his farming operations run uninterrupted during this time, but seems equally happy about what’s in store for the riders: “The new route will take you along a contour all the way around the hill and through our citrus orchards, it will be nice fast riding - it should help the legs before you take on the Iconic Climb out of the Valley,” he says.
There are also a few small tweaks on day 3, and the finish venue will change again.
“We won’t return to the beach, but riders won’t have as much of a climb to the finish as they had in 2018, as our new finish venue is the Scottburgh Golf Club,” says Glen.
Joanna Dobinson is founder and skills coach of Biking in the Bosch, and trains the likes of Ariane Luthi and Adelheid Morath, who both podiumed at the recent ABSA Cape Epic. Jo did her first sani2c last year and says: “after training lots of riders to do sani2c, it was great to do the event myself in 2018.”
She said she and her riding partner Lundy Breadberg went out to have fun rather than race, but says the Umko drop certainly had them going fast: “I always shout “Whoop, whoop” when I really enjoy a descent and I must have whoop whooped the whole way down that valley. I have never experienced anything like it, and I have ridden all around the world. Seeing the sun rising into the valley, the beautifully built flowing trail, it was such fun, you really feel like you are living life to the full.”
Her claim to fame at sani2c was being the only woman in the Adventure version of the race to manage the ”Iconic Climb” of Day 2, a challenge within the race to make the gruelling climb without stopping: “I have never done a climb like that, I had people cheering and it was awesome to claim that sticker for my bike. If you can ride technically and do a track-stand, you can do it,” she said.
Farmer Glen echoes that sentiment: “You do need to know how to ride. Technical skills are important to your enjoyment of the event whether you are doing Trail, Adventure or the Race version, although you will be under less pressure in the Trail and the Adventure.”
Francois Pienaar from Johannesburg is looking forward to his 7th sani2c, not least because he missed last year and the 2017 event saw rain cancel out the Umko Drop.
“From one year to the next I remember noticing the huge difference on Day 1 where they had reduced the amount of district road and replaced it with single track sections.”
“One of the highlights is obviously the first part of the Umko drop when you see that view and realise you are now in the meat of sani2c and you think “wow, this is really biking Nirvana.”
“Then you come out next to the river after 25kms downhill and that section of single track is a treat. After that College water point I love to get going with the climb - there is something about just sitting and grinding and weaving yourself through this beautiful valley upward and then having the amazing forest section that rewards you after you reach the top.”
Francois says that year round he and his friends talk about some of these route sections, looking forward to sani2c.
“We have more than 82 stage races in the country, but sani2c just feels like the original and really is the benchmark: It’s got enough fun, its tough enough, and the facilities are ridiculously plush from a riding perspective.The riders lounge is like an oasis, you just want to get there.”
Francois says we must not discount the beauty of Day 3, “It’s really special. We all talk about Day 2 but there is Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, the amazing single track and some district road that from a riding perspective is so flowing and fast.”
Gavin Wood from Cape Town has done all but one sani2c and also mentions Vernon Crookes on Day 2 as a highlight, “such different terrain and you have the opportunity of seeing wildlife.”
“The Umkomaas descent is just one of a kind. It’s almost worth going to the race just for that,” he says.
“From the beginning they have maximised the singletrack and every year it seems to get better. There is so little tar road over such a big distance across KZN; you are in nature, the diversity is quite something. From the mountains and forests, to the Umkomaas Valley, and alongside the river which is quite unique - the route is fantastic, I’d give it ten out of ten.”
Farmer Glen says he loves to see the riders coming back year after year but says he is keen to see new faces too.
“Some young riders are intimidated and think they can’t manage sani2c. If you are someone who has not done much stage racing but are fit and competent on the bike, you should come and do the Trail at sani, it’s the same route but a more relaxed vibe where you won’t feel pressure from racing snakes and be pushed on the single track. We still have a bit of space on the Trail, and a few spots for the Race,” he said.
Join the KAP sani2c for #morethanaride by entering at www.sani2c.co.za
Read about the difference between the three events at sani2c.
Here is a sneak peek at the new “Woody’s Burn” section on day 2: