Race Report: Bloemendal WC XCO #1

The home of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club hosted the first event of the Western Cape Cross Country series in sweltering conditions. Here’s what went down.

XCO14.jpg
XCO10.jpg

 

Mountain bike racing is back in full flow after the December hiatus and ‘base’ training period. The downhill hooligans have already had their first provincial race and the Tankwa Trek was well into day 3 by the time the XCO at Bloemendal got underway. The first XCO of the year is always a test, and for many, it’s the first real ask of legs and lungs over a sustained 1h30(ish) effort.

 

Tygerberg Mountain Club has taken over as headline sponsors of the series this year putting money and resources behind the series that’s producing prodigious talents. As a platform to go pro, XCO is the best option for aspiring young mountain bikers with its Olympic accreditation and recently televised races. The Western Cape series is producing the goods too, with the current top-ranked Junior in the world, Luke Moir lining up at every event. It’s not only the boys too, but the likes of Mariska Strauss and Candice Lill have also used the series to sharpen their skills before heading overseas to take part on the world stage.

 

XCO15.jpg

XCO2.jpg
XCO3.jpg

 

Changed track


XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders. For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical. Time is always made on the climbs in an XCO, very rarely is there more than a few seconds to be had on a descent anyway. Tygerberg head shovel, Patrick Roberts oversaw some of the course layout, using his extensive knowledge of keeping around 8 000 club members happy to create a course everyone could ride.

 

XCO20.jpg

XCO18.jpg
XCO19.jpg

 

The Sprogs, Nippers and other younglings categories got the best of the conditions, getting their races out of the way before the mercury climbed well into the 30s and according to the odd Garmin, 40s!

 

Out of the blocks, the track sent you skyward from the base of the Bloemendal hill to the summit. Of the 4.4km lap, this climb alone took up 800 metres but was easier to find a rhythm as it was mostly jeep track climbing. The famous (for Tygerberg riders) Lombard’s Terra descent gave you a chance to breathe for a second and try and get the sweat out of your eyes as you railed the big berms and manicured singletrack. Over the years this section has been revamped, adjusted, modified and improved to make it family-friendly but still challenging for those looking to beat the stopwatch.

 

XCO8.jpg

XCO11.jpg
XCO17.jpg
XCO7.jpg

 

If you had managed to get the sweat out of your eyes down Lombards, the following singletrack climb was sure to cascade a waterfall of sweat back down your face. I don’t know if that climb has an official name but it felt like heart-rate hell. It’s not hectically steep but takes a lot out of you mentally as you pick the smoothest line through the rocks and switchbacks. A foot-down here will cost you time and a whole lot of energy to get going again. The tangible relief of every competitor was visible after this climb as the hardest part of the lap was behind them.

 

XCO5.jpg

 

A quick breather could be had as you traversed a small vineyard ‘block’ before ascending again to the far corner of of the farm, where things were eerily quiet and far away from the crowds. A new zig-zag section was installed for this year which reversed the climbs and descents (so we went up the down and down the up of the usual trail). This made things interesting on what would normally have been stepped log hop-overs (similar to those you see in cyclocross) except we were coming at them with speed. Many riders tried to find a rhythm through here by doubling the logs or manualing over them but the most effective route seemed to be rolling them individually as fast as you could and holding onto the bars and letting the bike dance underneath you like a professional twerker (twerkist? I dunno).

 

One last short singletrack climb led to the main and longest descent on the track where most of it was familiar to those who rode the course last year. It’s a great descent, whether you go for the Elite and Junior only A-line or the flowy B-Line. The A-line is a treat for the skilled rider with gaps, pallet jumps and a rhythm section crammed into 350 metres of riding, nothing here is particularly difficult but if you get the flow right you can make things more comfortable for yourself, save some energy and probably a bit of time too. Most categories were detoured through the B-line here to avoid unnecessary ambulance visits. The detour was all about keeping up the minimum speed and staying on line through the off-camber corners.

 

XCO9.jpg

XCO4.jpg
XCO6.jpg

 

After this, you got to have a chat to your tech crew, take on some fluids and descend the few extra hundred metres of jeep track before starting it all over again for another lap.

 

Huge respect must be given to the riders who took part on one of the hottest days of the year. It was excellent to see the younger categories pumping out 30 riders to a class, while most of the Elites were off doing their bit at Tankwa or even the 99er road race.

 

XCO1.jpg

 

The less-young crew (of which I am one) put out a respectable field of familiar riders, with the Masters Men accounting for the largest quantity of riders outside of the Junior categories. Still, more riders are always better so if you find yourself without an Epic entry, head to Rhebbokskloof for round 2 on March 14 and join in fun.




54 Comments

Thermophage, Feb 11 2020 12:57

"For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical" - wait, say what now?

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Feb 11 2020 01:06

Yeah, erm... Sorry, what?! FFS. NOT everyone should be able to ride every trail, or an xco loop for that matter. That's why there are different levels of grading, though TBMTBC seems not to know how to grade a trail properly in the first place, anyway.

Well done on fostering progression and skills dev.

Eddy Gordo, Feb 11 2020 01:07

"XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders."
Last years event saw a number of pros being embarassed by the "technical" sections. A skill which can be learned and should be if you want to be a world class athlete. Especially if you are a sponsored rider. It is your Job to be able to perform in all conditions. Why dumb down the course to make riders look good?

Ashold, Feb 11 2020 01:08

"For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical" - wait, say what now?

More climbs, less jumping and they also organised a ton more heat.

Thermophage, Feb 11 2020 01:10

More climbs, less jumping and they also organised a ton more heat.

So basically they dumbed it down because their general rider can't cope? Sounds like a great way to progress the sport for the people wanting to compete nationally and, potentially, internationally. That is pathetic. Kind of speaks to the rest of Tygerberm's trail building and grading antics

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Feb 11 2020 01:22

"XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders."
Last years event saw a number of pros being embarassed by the "technical" sections. A skill which can be learned and should be if you want to be a world class athlete. Especially if you are a sponsored rider. It is your Job to be able to perform in all conditions. Why dumb down the course to make riders look good?

The "pro's" that got embarassed, got embarassed because they went in to a technical section at full gas without inspecting the course and attenuating their speed, and had a hard time staying on the bike. In the preview it was said explicitly that people need to moderate their speed at that exact section or they'd see their asses. And that happened. That doesn't mean the course is too difficult, that means that the riders needed to take heed of their skillsets and ride accordingly, or take the flippin B line. 

 

The trick to getting better isn't dumbing down the course. It's by skilling up so that you can ride it. 

Ashold, Feb 11 2020 01:28

"XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders."
Last years event saw a number of pros being embarassed by the "technical" sections. A skill which can be learned and should be if you want to be a world class athlete. Especially if you are a sponsored rider. It is your Job to be able to perform in all conditions. Why dumb down the course to make riders look good?

The Elites and Juniors (which is where our pros come from) were sent down the tougher A-line - the one I believe you speak of. 

 

For the most part the kids and Juniors have all the skills, especially the fast ones. It's the older categories where the skills lack and XCO frightens them away. It seems you get to an age where self preservation trumps skill progression.

Matchstix, Feb 11 2020 01:31

Come on guys. The club is R6 800 000 strong.
The needs of the many outweight that of a few that want technical trails. Be realistic. If the majority of members cant ride the trails it will be a waste of money and people wont join. The world class track is there if you want to ride the tech on your own time.

Ashold, Feb 11 2020 01:34

So basically they dumbed it down because their general rider can't cope? Sounds like a great way to progress the sport for the people wanting to compete nationally and, potentially, internationally. That is pathetic. Kind of speaks to the rest of Tygerberm's trail building and grading antics

As far as I know, Tygerberg was consulted on the course layout but WPMTB sets it out. All the tougher sections from last year were kept in for the Elites and Juniors. I am also led to believe Allesandra Kellar was at the event and her verdict was that the track was world class.

Nick, Feb 11 2020 01:37

Dunno, hey. I'm always blown away by the skill levels at the local XCOs.

tcarthew, Feb 11 2020 01:52

Come on guys. The club is R6 800 000 strong.
The needs of the many outweight that of a few that want technical trails. Be realistic. If the majority of members cant ride the trails it will be a waste of money and people wont join. The world class track is there if you want to ride the tech on your own time.

Are you actually serious?

 

This club that constantly boast of having 150 odd km worth of single track? That boasts about supporting guys like Pottie & Garlicki? About young hopefuls like Luke Moir? You're telling me that even some stupid % of that 150 odd can't be dedicated to more technically advanced trails catering to talented young riders who want to skill up is not possible?

 

It's this kind of absolutely ignorant & selfish attitude from the older crowd of blue shirt wearing accountants on spez epics with no clue are are seriously messing with the future profession prospects of young riders. And yes, they are incredibly talented & resourceful young riders who make do with the trails that they have, but is that fair? Is the club really fulfilling its responsibility to its members?

 

Surely you join a club to be surrounded by like minded individuals & learn from those more experienced. To get good advice & skill up.

 

The reason people like myself & those of my ilk are so out spoken about the club is because of, in my view, the clubs absolutely irresponsible & insane reaction to anything technical, which is dumb down the trail instead of educate themselves & the riders of the club. Our trails aren't even graded  correctly so it's no wonder people are constantly hurting themselves.

I heard a rumor that 1 young rider who races in europe uses conties dh mainline to train because that's as close to european xco standards he can get & even that is not as challenging in comparison.

 

I'd like to see the club mature & start to understand more about the sport they claim to love so much. Instead of dumbing down trails, grade them properly. When a rider gets injured on a technical trail, instead of sending Patrick & his gnomes out to smooth it over, engage guys like Julien Louw to go host a session at a particular spot to walk people through what can go wrong & how to rather tackle it, but the club (& it's so called "masses") prefer to go on the defence & come out swinging at it's critics decrying the guys who'd like more technical terrain to advance & skill up on.

Thermophage, Feb 11 2020 01:53

Well then all that is at fault is the sentence in the article. Good to know. Also, public figures saying something was world class means very little. By their very nature, they need to be nice, save face and be polite. 

 

Come on guys. The club is R6 800 000 strong.
The needs of the many outweight that of a few that want technical trails. Be realistic. If the majority of members cant ride the trails it will be a waste of money and people wont join. The world class track is there if you want to ride the tech on your own time.

 

And nobody is talking about this bra. All were referring to the sentence in the article. Perhaps you need to not read in too much to things.

WaldoZ, Feb 11 2020 02:26

I love how a sentence in an article can get guys nickers in knots... now if you where there and see for yourself and is still upset about what you see then thats a different story.

 

Come join and see how fun it is. I am the B-line king and loose around 15-20sec a lap because of it but I am really grateful I can compete and expose myself to this format. I see myself progressing at least and hopefully skill up so that I don't loose that much time.

Thermophage, Feb 11 2020 02:28

A sentence speaks to a larger issue we have been seeing with the club for years. So yes. A sentence can be the trigger for things when it is so very poorly phrased.

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Feb 11 2020 02:28

Dunno, hey. I'm always blown away by the skill levels at the local XCOs.

I tend to agree. Some bloody talented riders in the mix. So the question stands - why dumb it down "so everybody can ride it". If people can't, it's not the trail that's at fault, it's teh rider. 

Eddy Gordo, Feb 11 2020 02:33

Are you actually serious?

 

This club that constantly boast of having 150 odd km worth of single track? That boasts about supporting guys like Pottie & Garlicki? About young hopefuls like Luke Moir? You're telling me that even some stupid % of that 150 odd can't be dedicated to more technically advanced trails catering to talented young riders who want to skill up is not possible?

 

It's this kind of absolutely ignorant & selfish attitude from the older crowd of blue shirt wearing accountants on spez epics with no clue are are seriously messing with the future profession prospects of young riders. And yes, they are incredibly talented & resourceful young riders who make do with the trails that they have, but is that fair? Is the club really fulfilling its responsibility to its members?

 

Surely you join a club to be surrounded by like minded individuals & learn from those more experienced. To get good advice & skill up.

 

The reason people like myself & those of my ilk are so out spoken about the club is because of, in my view, the clubs absolutely irresponsible & insane reaction to anything technical, which is dumb down the trail instead of educate themselves & the riders of the club. Our trails aren't even graded  correctly so it's no wonder people are constantly hurting themselves.

I heard a rumor that 1 young rider who races in europe uses conties dh mainline to train because that's as close to european xco standards he can get & even that is not as challenging in comparison.

 

I'd like to see the club mature & start to understand more about the sport they claim to love so much. Instead of dumbing down trails, grade them properly. When a rider gets injured on a technical trail, instead of sending Patrick & his gnomes out to smooth it over, engage guys like Julien Louw to go host a session at a particular spot to walk people through what can go wrong & how to rather tackle it, but the club (& it's so called "masses") prefer to go on the defence & come out swinging at it's critics decrying the guys who'd like more technical terrain to advance & skill up on.

 

I dont see why this cant be done. The club does lots of social and night rides. So maybe even just having someone on a certain section giving out advice

tcarthew, Feb 11 2020 02:46

I love how a sentence in an article can get guys nickers in knots... now if you where there and see for yourself and is still upset about what you see then thats a different story.

 

Come join and see how fun it is. I am the B-line king and loose around 15-20sec a lap because of it but I am really grateful I can compete and expose myself to this format. I see myself progressing at least and hopefully skill up so that I don't loose that much time.

 

And we're all glad you do, but you're not competing on the level of some of the young hopefuls. So if you continue on your trajectory & really want to skill up & put effort into it.....you're going to be where a lot of us are.

 

For the record, the guys who you say have their knickers in a know have all pretty much ridden that trail, all the a lines & that is exactly why we are speaking out against dumbing it down.

WaldoZ, Feb 11 2020 02:55

And we're all glad you do, but you're not competing on the level of some of the young hopefuls. So if you continue on your trajectory & really want to skill up & put effort into it.....you're going to be where a lot of us are.

 

For the record, the guys who you say have their knickers in a know have all pretty much ridden that trail, all the a lines & that is exactly why we are speaking out against dumbing it down.

 

Are you (or whoever has their nickers in knots) then upset that the major A-line was closed for all categories but the Elites and Juniors? The Elites and Juniors all had that open and rode all the technical features there was to offer. 

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Feb 11 2020 03:03

Are you (or whoever has their nickers in knots) then upset that the major A-line was closed for all categories but the Elites and Juniors? The Elites and Juniors all had that open and rode all the technical features there was to offer. 

Why not sub vets, vets and masters, too? 

 

Was that really the case, or was it as the article suggests, here, which shows that the course was changed to make it less technical. There still would have been A / B / C lines on some of the features.

XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders. For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical. Time is always made on the climbs in an XCO, very rarely is there more than a few seconds to be had on a descent anyway. Tygerberg head shovel, Patrick Roberts oversaw some of the course layout, using his extensive knowledge of keeping around 8 000 club members happy to create a course everyone could ride.

MoreTrails, Feb 11 2020 03:11

Lets be blunt, we have not had a XC racer capable of racing in the main field of elite men, since Burry.
Ladies field I am less well versed with, so I stand corrected, but we have not had someone at the sharp end.

But that is not to say that we cannot. We absolutely CAN!
I put money on Luke Moir making that happen in time.

However, simplifying a XCO track is not the solution. Up-skilling riders is.
The track should have A & B, possibly C lines (or like some world cup tracks, a very wide cut piece of course allowing a rider to make a line) that will reward in time saved due to skilled earned. The faster and more skilled the rider, the more aggressive a line can be taken that potentially saves time...or requires risk... that yields the advantage.
And there should be a marshal pulling the less skilled rider from the A line so as not to cause "incidents".

Force competitors to walk the course, or pre-ride (this is standard practice at international events)
Encourage builders to use their imagination and vision in building and taping a course to reward riders, while ensuring safe options for others.
Create courses, or use trails that challenge and reward, both the beginner and the expert rider.

 

And bear in mind, this goes both ways...can you enduro bro's bleed on a short course for 100min? Can you xc bandits let it all hangout on a rowdy dh course? 

 

Food for thought...

WaldoZ, Feb 11 2020 03:14

Why not sub vets, vets and masters, too? 

 

Was that really the case, or was it as the article suggests, here, which shows that the course was changed to make it less technical. There still would have been A / B / C lines on some of the features.

XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders. For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical. Time is always made on the climbs in an XCO, very rarely is there more than a few seconds to be had on a descent anyway. Tygerberg head shovel, Patrick Roberts oversaw some of the course layout, using his extensive knowledge of keeping around 8 000 club members happy to create a course everyone could ride.

 

My point is that you wouldn't know cause you where not there. Now if you stayed away BECAUSE it is not technical enough for you or if something made you unhappy then I think you have a leg to stand on. Will you come to the next event if they made it more technical?

 

You guys are pulling sentences out of a well written article and bring a lot of negativity to this, which in my opinion is uncalled for.

milky4130, Feb 11 2020 03:25

Thanks, Great Write Up as always Ashley!

Thermophage, Feb 11 2020 03:25

My point is that you wouldn't know cause you where not there. Now if you stayed away BECAUSE it is not technical enough for you or if something made you unhappy then I think you have a leg to stand on. Will you come to the next event if they made it more technical?

 

You guys are pulling sentences out of a well written article and bring a lot of negativity to this, which in my opinion is uncalled for.

That is not what people are talking about.

Everyone here is saying that if we want to ensure that we develop riders to the point where they can compete then "dumbing" down an XCO track is a surefire way to make sure that is a very difficult thing to achieve.

Picking a sentence whether you have a problem with that or not, frankly I (not I suspect anyone else here) do not care. That is how the article was written. How is anyone supposed to have sniffed otherwise.

Call it negativity if you will. But it's a public club/entity it MUST be open to criticism, otherwise it's simply a dictatorshi*.

Given that sentence specifically and the repeated disappointment we've had from the club over multiple years seeing similar things done is what spurred this conversation. Every one of us commenting here can happily ride that track without issue, but we ourselves have no interest in racing, let alone XCO. 

Just concern that actions like described in "the sentence" can be massively detrimental to the development of talented riders, AND reduce the variety of trail available to us more casual riders, who may not race, but certainly really enjoy struggling to get down a trail, whatever the speed may be. As tcarthew has made clear. We're not sure where the clubs priorities lie, but we would hope that development and upskilling of riders is at the top of the charts.

Anyway, the explanations prior to "the sentence" go a long way to mitigate concerns relating directly to the event in question, albeit not entirely. I for one, feel having a "different" course for different groups is unnecessary, having ridden the course before and in the area for the better part of 10 years. But anyhoo, so be it.

Ashold, Feb 11 2020 03:27

Why not sub vets, vets and masters, too? 

 

Was that really the case, or was it as the article suggests, here, which shows that the course was changed to make it less technical. There still would have been A / B / C lines on some of the features.

XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders. For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical. Time is always made on the climbs in an XCO, very rarely is there more than a few seconds to be had on a descent anyway. Tygerberg head shovel, Patrick Roberts oversaw some of the course layout, using his extensive knowledge of keeping around 8 000 club members happy to create a course everyone could ride.

I think it would be fair to let the adult categories decide for themselves which lines they want to take - agree. However, this isn't anything to do with the club. These decisions are surely made by the commissaire on the day? 

 

Great course, each event has a unique feel to it and the courses each offer up their own challenges. If you complete the whole series your bike skills will improve. The kids are alright.

Jewbacca, Feb 11 2020 03:34

All you Enduro Bro's commenting on this thread, come and do an XCO this year. Come to Rheebokskloof and finish the race without being lapped.

 

THEN you can talk about whether XCO is dumbed down OR whether it is rider safety. I was bleak they took out the drops, BUT the B line was more tiring. 

 

When your heart hasn't dipped below 190 for 60 minutes in 40' heat, sometimes it's a bit better to er on the side of caution.

 

I am usually not so scathing, but please. It's really different doing all those obstacles after an hour of flat out racing as opposed to spinning up the 2km climb in 45 minutes, stopping for various tea parties, getting undressed to get dressed, putting on some pads and a full face and starting the descent with a resting heart rate and armour on.

 

Yes, we haven't had a world class XCO racer since Burry, other than Allen who was u23 world champ of course?!... we also haven't had a world class DH rider since Greg or an Enduro rider full stop. In fact, realistically we have probably had 10 'world class' cyclists across ALL disciplines ever.

 

If I don't see you guys at the next XCO I will assume you have all decided you were wrong and had no place to comment on this thread in a derogatory manner..... Rant over