Sani2C was one of the first stage races to emerge after the overnight success of the Cape Epic. True to the Kwa-Zulu Natal pioneering spirit this stage race has carved a niche for itself on the MTB calendar. It has an enormous number of loyal followers with by far the majority of riders returning to ride again. Despite riding the same route every year, mountain bikers are never disappointed as new tracks are built and the whole experienced enhanced. In fact getting an entry is difficult unless you rode the year before or know someone who did.
The word FREE sums up this race for me as it has a distinct free spirit about it thanks to the casual approach of Farmer Glen, the riding is pure freedom as the kilometres of singletrack and unfolding KZN landscape releases itself on you and then there is the free stuff and food that you get from start to finish. They call it the Sani2C family and it works well as the communities really get involved and you feel the hospitality that they offer. Its all done with little fuss and flash but it works and that’s what matters.
The 3 days of riding are all varied and well put together and there is never a dull moment, no boring stretches, no long never ending slogs, just a continual stream of varying single track and different challenges. Day 1 starts off fast and easy with a district road over rolling hills, good to get everyone settled and sort out the pacing before the single track. Then the fun starts with a series of singletrack sections, forest tracks and the famous floating bridge section. The last section of day 1, although mostly downhill, has some short sharp climbs that catch out those who over did it at the start and the finish on top of the hill sucks the last bit of energy out of you. Day 1 is always a gamble, for the survivors its a case of how much energy do you save for the next two days and for the racers its a case of how fast can you go to get a good start for day 2 and set up the rest of the race. Most riders get in by lunch time on Day 1 so they can rest and refuel, and there is no shortage of food with Clover milk on tap, energy drinks, yogurt, Nandos crisps, tea and coffee, biscuits and lunch too.
Day 2 is the jeckyl and hide day, the first third of the day is downhill into the valley on the best singletrack you can imagine and then the last 2 thirds of the day you have to climb yourself out and over the Umkomaas valley. The new Murrys meander section of singletrack was spectacular, cut into the mountainside with the valley dropping off to the left. This section has to be seen from a distance to be appreciated because once you are on it you need to concentrate on keeping your wheels on track. The normally quick section at the bottom of the valley was a real test in the mud and you had big problems if you had small mud clearance on your tires. Clearly route designer Nick was not joking when he said that mud tyres were the way to go. Although after that it was dry right up to the end in mud puddle lane. The climbing on day 2 is relentless, you don’t always realise you are climbing all day because the terrain changes all the time. Then there is the legendary Nandos halfway stop after Satans climb where a Nandos burger and some shade trees will let you catch your breath. We used the 10 min stop to fix a dodgy shifter and re-lube chains. Its only halfway so there is more climbing to come, by the end of the day your legs will tell you they have had enough. This is a tough day and will always be by anyone’s standards, in good weather it will be hard, but add in mud, rain and or heat and you have an epic day on your hands. For many its a 9 hour battle but that doesn’t stop them celebrating crossing the line as they know that the hardest day is in the bag. The famous fillet steaks on Day 2 are all they are cracked up to be and the ice cream and chocolate sauce is the ultimate refuelling supplement.
Day 3 is fast and furious, mostly downhill with enough hills to keep you honest and one or two climbs that put you right into granny gear and praying that it doesn’t last for long otherwise there will be trouble. Momentum is the name of the game and staying in touch with your start group will mean a fast enjoyable day out. The first part of the day has all the worst climbing with a few downhills for relief. Then the end of the day really speeds up until you get to the end. First challenge was making it over the snaking floating bridge over the lagoon which required a bit of speed and a good line. Second challenge was the short climb off the beach and then the climb up to the school and the finish line. It was another memorable day out and a great way to finish a really enjoyable 3 days of riding.
Braam du Toit – Physiotherapist