The ups and downs of joberg2c Day 6

By David Moseley

It’s always difficult to leave the joberg2c’s Nottingham Road race village at Clifton Prep because the hospitality is so welcoming… and in the morning the school kids line up on their ponies ahead of the cyclists, so any rider who gets too close to the ponies or tries to attack the neutral start is certain to get a rude awakening in the form of a hind-leg kick to the head.

Luckily, no ponies were agitated at the start of the 97km day six ride from Nottingham Road to Glencairn near Himeville and the 800+ joberg2c field was able to enjoy another perfect day of mountain biking. The ponies set the pace out of the Clifton grounds, with the local bagpiper sending us all off with an invigorating skirl of The Flower of Scotland.

As always in Nottingham Road, the start was frosty. But the heat arrived early in the form of a few short, sharp hills on farm roads that set the scene for the main climb of the day – a 6km monster called Snowtop. Before that climb, though, the main obstacle of the day was a stubborn herd of sheep who blocked, then cleared, then blocked the path. It’s as if they were all blindly following each other with no regard for other people’s input.

While the weather on the day was ideal for cycling, heavy rains throughout the KwaZulu-Natal summer wiped out many of the iconic parts of the route. Sweet, sexy, scintillating singletrack like Harrison’s Pass (a twisty-turny switchback descent), Rock ‘n Roll (there are rocks, you roll over them), and Skyfall (not the Adele one) were all washed away so emphatically ahead of the event that there was no chance of a rebuild.

Instead, the fast-thinking organisers reverted to a previous route, one which included the Snowtop climb and many other “little” sense of humour testers. For most in the field, day six was an “honest but rewarding” day. You had to work hard to tick off the 97km, but with clear blue skies all the way, the views of the Drakensberg were outstanding, while the pastoral pleasures were pristine.

At this time of year, the farms, and forests along the KwaZulu-Natal portion of the route are in picture-perfect condition. Every field is green, every cow is plump, every river is flowing, and the trees have taken it upon themselves to display every shade of autumnal brown, red, purple, and orange imaginable. Mercifully, the mud was also non-existent, meaning everyone could focus on the climbing rather than the crying.

But even the climbing, though impressive at 2000m over the 97km distance, wasn’t enough to deter riders from enjoying themselves. The water points played their role too, with banana bread, date balls, and fruit cake on offer as well as boerie rolls being served at the top of Snowtop; to top it off, the third and final waterpoint of the day served up fresh jam doughnuts. This of course made the final 10km of climbing more problematic, as everyone was 3kg heavier than at the start of the day.

After a few trying days, one of the organisers exclaimed at the finish line “we’re back”. Indeed we are, and looking forward to being back on the bike for a relatively short 82km day seven ride from Glencairn to McKenzie Club in Ixopo.