The Dr Evil Classic and Karoo to Coast combination: 4 days of Garden Route bliss

Two very different mountain bike races happened on the Garden Route over the Heritage Day long weekend. With the growing trend amongst cyclists to do both the Dr Evil Classic and the Karoo to Coast, we spoke to some of the riders about what makes the combination of the two races, one a stage race and the other a one day endurance event, an unmissable feast of mountain biking.

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The Dr Evil Classic starts at the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve


The Dr Evil Classic is a three-day mountain bike stage race in the Plettenberg Bay area and surrounds. Each day has a different start/finish venue, Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve, Kurland Polo Estate and Cairnbrogie Dairy Farm, all within 25kms of one another. With three completely different days of riding, through game reserve, mountainous indigenous and pine forest, and coastal single track, the event shows off the best of the Garden Route. This year’s event took place from 19-21 September.


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The Dr Evil Classic covers a wide range of landscape of pine and indigenous forest and coastal track


The 100 kilometre Lions Karoo to Coast, with 1560 metres of climbing and 2300 metres of descent from the Karoo to the coast, sees up to 4500 riders cross the old wagon trail out of Uniondale before joining the Prince Alfred’s Pass through the Outeniqua Mountains to Knysna. This year’s event took place on 22 September.


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The Lions Karoo to Coast traverses the Prince Alfred’s Pass through the Outeniqua Mountains


“The Dr Evil Classic and Karoo to Coast piggybacking off each other is a fantastic concept,” says ex-pro rider Kevin Evans of the Bike Shop in Plettenberg Bay.


“Who wouldn’t want to come down here and ride for 4 days if you can. Having Dr Evil start on the Thursday [70km], and then having the two shorter days on Friday and Saturday [45km and 51km], allows you to kind-of take it easy for Sunday. For me it’s home town rides; two very different rides through different areas, a fantastic weekend all round.”


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The Dr Evil Classic route will have you stopping for regular photo opportunities


Jeff Brodie from Johannesburg completed both races: “The Karoo to Coast interested me as it was a reason to train and to have a goal to achieve something. The scenery and terrain as well the fact that it was a one-day event was my initial interest. I roped in my friend and training partner Myron Katz, who suggested that while we are travelling all the way from Joburg, that we do both Dr Evil as well as Karoo to Coast. This part of our country is truly beautiful and if you are in Plett for Dr Evil, you may as well do Karoo to Coast as well.”


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“The Karoo to Coast was the most beautiful route I have ever done with my bike”


“People need to understand that you need to train for either of these events to enjoy them. Dr Evil was amazing. The route, slightly different each day, the water and food stations kept us going with encouragement and great food. The general organisation of both events, the lunches, the helpfulness of the organisers were beyond amazing.


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The magical forest single track of the Dr Evil Classic


“Karoo to Coast was an extra challenge due to the weather this year. The route is tough, with lots of climbing - I thought riding from Uniondale to Knysna would be downhill! We were wet, we were cold, but we were on our bicycles and I said to a complete stranger next to me up one of the climbs: ‘I came here to ride this race, and I’m not getting off my bicycle until we get to Knysna, and he said Ek ook!’.”


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“Karoo to Coast was an extra challenge due to the weather this year.”


Three Bosman brothers Cecil, Francois and Jaco, all grew up in Knysna and took part in both events. Says Cecil, who now lives in Cape Town: “Dr Evil is a great race to get into stage racing, it’s not too heavy but it has a few technical sections with a bit of endurance involved, and there is a more laid back atmosphere than at the bigger events.


“For me the Karoo to Coast almost like a road race, because of the numbers. Your start is very important, you want to keep up with some of the faster guys, get over Wapad quickly enough and stay with the guys who are stronger so that once you hit the flats you can latch onto a wheel.


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The Karoo to Coast starts in the town of Uniondale and heads out onto the old Wapad


“If you want a taste of a real endurance race the Karoo to Coast is perfect - it is a long ride and there is a lot of climbing but it’s never too steep where you have to push and it’s never too technical where it is scary.”


Francois, also resident in Cape Town says: “Doing the events together is also a good way of training for some of the tougher stage races like the Epic and Tankwa Trek. The combination, with the long day at the end, is very good for training.


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“If you want a taste of a real endurance race the Karoo to Coast is perfect”


Anso van Dyk from Kakamas in the Northern Cape did the Karoo to Coast in 2015: “It was the most beautiful route I have ever done with my bike and always told myself that I would ride it again. I went to my friends early this year and told them let's do the Dr. Evil and the Karoo to Coast. They immediately agreed so we signed up for both. We didn't really know what to expect doing both, I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I knew I could push myself to finish it.


“Stage 1 and 2 of Dr Evil were tough for me with all the uphills. The last few kilometres of single track were really fun on day 2, challenging, but also very technical. Stage 3 was the best day for me. There was uphill as well, but it wasn't like Stage 1 and 2 at all. The single track and the last section where you were riding so high along the sea, is so beautiful that you forget about the other two difficult days. I would definitely do it again and recommend that other riders do this at least once in their life.”


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For many riders the highlight of the Dr Evil Classic is the coastal single track of day 3


Johan Labuschagne is currently living in Knysna and says: “I came here from Gauteng a few years ago and nowhere in South Africa do you have such different biomes as in this combination. In Dr Evil you have beautiful mountains, forest and the coastline, and in Karoo to Coast you have dry Karoo, mountains and coast. They fit really well together - if you take the trouble to travel here for one, you should do both - it’s bliss.”


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“If you take the trouble to travel here for one, you should do both - it’s bliss.”