The mountain bike stage race capital of the world – that’s South Africa. With 58 stage races scheduled in 12 months, that works out to an average of more than one a week Wow! We’re truly fortunate.
We published our first annual TREAD Stage Race Guide last year and there were 41 stage races. Quite a growth spurt in the past year… This year we decided to also include some international stage races because, well, you know, it’s a great reason to travel to a neighbouring country – or overseas.
I personally compiled the stage race guide and spent quite a lot of time emailing stage race organisers. Many got their race info back to me quite rapidly, some required a second email prompt and others still haven’t replied. Tread Issue 33.
We listed them all anyway. Only those that that returned race information got some details into the directory. You’ll have to check out the websites of the others for details.
Why is stage racing so big here? Well, personally, I think it’s a number of factors, including our good year-round climate, which, by global standards is fairly warm and dry. Also the fact that we have such diverse terrain, vegetation and geography in this country. You name it, it can be found in South Africa – bushveld, desert, forest, beaches, hills, mountains and more – and that means there’s always some place interesting to explore – by mountain bike.
And then there’s the early success factor – Both the ABSA Cape Epic and Nedbank sani2c were established in 2004 and 2005 respectively. They’re extremely successful as businesses, the former as the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race and the latter as the world’s biggest mountain bike stage race. Every business-minded participant of one or both has probably considered packing in his/her corporate job and starting a mountain bike stage race, inspired by what can be achieved in the business sense. But of course, as we have seen, it’s not quite that straightforward. A few stage races have fallen away and some have been postponed due to low entry numbers. More will probably fall away in the coming year too. The reality is that it’s not easy to start and grow a stage race with limited resources, not when the market is such a mature one, like ours.
And then there’s the other thing – standards. The Cape Epic and Sani2c have both set exceptionally high standards and are generally the stage races by which others are measured. We’re actually rather spoiled here. Some stage races overseas offer little in the way of accommodation or food to participants, while most of ours are fully catered with full accommodation included.
Our stage races in South Africa are by far the best quality (think of that next time we groan about stage race entry fees) in the world. Every little creature comfort takes effort and/or money to acquire when you’ve set up a race village in a remote part of the country. Nothing just happens without effort.
And effort is effort, no matter what language you speak or where you were born. Effort is what makes the biggest difference between a good stage race and a great stage race. Effort is what a lot of people go to; what a lot of people put into a stage race. Which ever stage race you choose to do this coming year, enjoy the quality, and appreciate the effort. And smile. There are few greater privileges than being in a position – financially and physically – to complete a mountain bike stage race.
TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio
*Originally published in TREAD Soul Provider Issue 33, 2014 – All rights reserved