We had limited knowledge of riding, not to mention trail building. Looking back now we are very grateful and humbled by the fact that riders kept coming back, year after year, to support our cause and in doing so, unwittingly became witnesses to our mountain biking evolution.
Since then, we have embraced mountain biking in all its painful glory. We have done our research in earnest by taking part in other events throughout our beloved country (note the hint please). We have also made a lot of new friends, who among them represent the various partitions of South African cycling – all of which have influenced our events and, more importantly, our trail building styles. Some have enlightened us to what it means to call yourself “fit” and what “technical riding” really implies. Others have helped us with the personification of “Steaze”: Style with Ease!
The evolution of our trails and its character is revealed to the keen observer whilst riding in our omnipotent mountain: every trail has a wooden board bearing its name and the date of its completion. Viewing these trails in chronological order, the evolution becomes crystal clear. From the very first berms that is so hilarious in its uselessness to the most recent series of perfect downhill switchback berms called “Snakes and Ladders”. To hanging bridges over seemingly nothing, flyovers, drop offs and rock gardens more befitting a Cross Country course.
Our focus has now also evolved to provide a superior single-track experience showcasing the beautiful environment by emphasising all its breath-taking features.
Over the course of four years we have built 90 kilometres of single-track that feature 2600 metres of vertical ascent. Due to the challenging nature of our trails we decided to host a two day stage race to provide riders with the opportunity to enjoy every piece of single-track on the mountain.
The Stage Race is hosted on Mouton’s Valley Farm, owned by Eric & Michele Starke, with the race village is next to a large dam under century old Oak Trees. Other activities will include hiking, fly fishing, canoeing or even swimming in the dam - provided that you bring the equipment needed for the above and still have some energy left after racing our trails.
In 2015 we invited our mountain biking friends for a weekend to try out what we hoped would be a very unique stage race. Having no name at the time we called the event The Unnamed Stage Race – a name that stuck and then after much deliberation was shortened to The U. Friends and family camped along the beautiful dam and enjoyed a relaxing chill zone under the tall oak trees which formed a perfectly natural start/finish chute for each day. This exercise provided valuable feedback and everyone was unanimous in their opinion that this could become a proper stage race. Read some ride reports from our friends Renay Groustra and Craig McKune who joined us for that weekend.
You can expect a real treat for the first official event taking place on the 15th and 16th of October. Included in the package is accommodation and supper from Friday evening in order to settle in and get a good night’s rest before we kick off with Day 1 on the 15th.
Although we are starting small, with only 100 team entries available, you will not miss out on any of the perks of the main stream Stage Race events. Our menus have been specifically developed by our local gourmet restauranteur Steve Oldroyd from the famous Hebron in Citrusdal to cater for the event with special care taken to include mouth-watering vegetarian and Halaal meal options. The Tech Zone will be run by Team Telkom’s pro racer Johann Rabie and his team from Bike Addict, Malmesbury. Professional sports message services will be provided by the well-known EPT Recovery, owned by Francois Retief.
On Day 1 of The U we take off to explore the farm Bugler’s Post, owned by John & Marika Ince - a mountain biking power couple who have completed races like the Sani2Sea & Wines2Whales together. The highlights of Day 1 include an exhilarating section through a pine forest that features drop offs, suspension bridges and a proper Pirates of the Caribbean Ride the Plank. But arguably the trail of the day is a 5km descent down the Piketberg mountain. Literally down the entire side of the Moutnain – right down to the bottom.
Seriously. No Jokes. This trail is called ‘Livingstone & Stanley’ as it resembles their serendipitous meeting in Africa. John Ince started building the trail from the top and Le Roux Rossouw started building from bottom – with the two teams meeting up somewhere in the middle.
Livingstone & Stanley has steep technical and high speed sections together with tight bermed corners. Many a well-known mountain biker has been heard going down this trail shouting with joy, like a 7 year old girl it has to be said (in order to adhere to the journalistic code of conduct).
And inevitably what goes down, must go back up again. No downhill goes unpunished on our mountain. Riders have to take on the Old Ox Wagon Pass which was the first pass built up the mountain in 1889. The pass has recently been converted into a magnificent piece of single-track with the three original loops (basically lollipop turns for ox wagons) restored to its full glory. The story goes that John Versveld got the inspiration to include these loops from a golden necklace glistening in the moonlight on his wife’s bedside table.
Day 2 continues the relentless attack on your fitness and skill with the seemingly endless single-track in the mountains of Mouton’s Valley Farm. The trails deliver spectacular views of Table Mountain and the West Coast coastline. The race village is almost always visible – helping you with orientation and to realize the criss-cross nature of the trails.
There are some challenging trails like “Gryskop” – a trail that runs along the side of the mountain. The height is staggering but the views are spectacular if you have the confidence to look around or down.
The highlight of Day 2 is climbing to the highest point of the entire stage race. The view from here is panoramic in every sense of the word – but rest assured it is not all uphill on day 2! We have some of the best downhill trails on this part of the mountain – trails called “Suicide Run”, “Greystone Express” and “Porcupine Avenue”.
The trails of Piket-bo-berg are truly unlike anything you have ridden before and The U combines these trails, camping and awesome cuisine into one complete and proper South African Stage Race.
For more information on The U, visit the event website here.