Limpopo Mountain Biking continues to forge its way to prominence with the hosting of Round 3 of the 2022 Cycling South Africa XCO Cup, presented by Insect Science on Saturday 30 April on what can only be described as one of the most balanced courses in the country.
After the resounding success of the opening round of the 2021 CSA XCO Cup Series last February at Summerplace Game Reserve and with the event being allocated a UCI Category 1 status, route designer David Baber has made changes to ensure the course closer resembles that of a World Cup race course. Set in the wild beauty of the Waterberg – again at Summerplace Game Reserve – the course is more compact than the 2021 route, but more balanced and sure to make complete riders smile broadly.
“We had some very good feedback on our course in 2021 from many of the experienced racers. We have so much space here, and that course took the riders quite far away from the spectators. So for this year’s route I have made it a lot more compact by adding in a whole new section called Snakes and Ladders. This ensures spectators will be consistently engaged with the racing and the new section, which is really close to the start/finish area is certain to be a spectator hot spot,” explained Baber
“We have also addressed the limited overtaking opportunities of the 2021 course and have ensured the climbs are wider or have split lines, so there are ample places to pass now” added Baber.
The 2022 course is 4.3km in distance with 185m of climbing per lap. Here’s a breakdown of the route with images of local racers Lillian Baber, in the blue jersey (16) and Carla Janse van Vuuren (15) at key points.
The event is based at Summerplace Game Reserve and the start/finish area is in front of the trailhead on the lawns, under the large trees. The first 910m is all a gradual climb, which stays wide (up a gravel road) until 600 metres in, where it changes to singletrack.
First technical section
After 910m the uncomplicated, smooth surface changes as riders turn left onto a section called The Gully. This descent starts off with firm rock and includes a couple of purpose-built rocky corners and a rock bridge before dropping down a steeper section into the gully over a series of logs and roots. It then climbs briefly over a natural rock garden before dropping again over more rocky bits to the base of the next climb, which begins at 1.5km in.
The second climb is 300 metres long, starting off a bit rutty and damp before becoming rocky – steep and rocky at first before a left turn onto moderate gradient with a few small kicks on loose, stony terrain. Most of the climb is wide enough to allow for overtaking.
The first long descent
From here you descend a full 1000m in distance back to the start/finish area along a trail called Summer Flow. It’s a gradual descent that requires a few hard pedal strokes in places, but also includes a number of fun features including small gap jumps, some natural roll-downs and the occasional low berm to help you hold your speed. This is the only real recovery section on the course, but at speed, the obstacles still require focus and energy.
Second technical section
Once through the Tech Zone, riders then start to climb again, but not for long, as the next 1000 metres is a brand new section called Snakes and Ladders. The route runs along a ridge taking riders up and down repeatedly. The ups are mostly short, steep pitches with some rocky sections and switchbacks and the downs are gnarly and include drop-offs and steep rock roll-downs. The B-Lines are indeed slower.
There’s actually no real recovery because the climbs are steep and the descents are technical. This section will undoubtedly test stamina, strength and skill in equal measures, but skilled riders will undoubtedly benefit from the A-Line advantages.
The final drop
Snakes and Ladders ends eventually at 4.0km in with just a 300 metre section remaining to complete the lap. This last bit is mostly gradually descending through some dense bush before you hit a slab rock section which has an A- and a B-Line. Those riding the A-Line will have the speed and direction to be able to hit two gap jumps, one small and one quite large before turning into the finish straight, which is on lawn and a slight incline. Those riding the B-Line will have a lower risk segment, but will lose speed due to the turns around obstacles.
Summerplace Game Reserve is located in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province. It’s a 2:30 minute drive from Pretoria and is at an altitude of 1445m above sea level. The temperature in late April is likely to be warm to hot and trail conditions should be dry.
The access road has been upgraded since the 2021 event and there’s a substantial, stimulating mountain bike trails network at Summerplace Game Reserve, so supporters that ride should bring bikes and riding kit. There will also be festivities on Saturday night after the racing for those keen to connect off the bike.
For XCO racers keen to sample the course before the SA Cup, presented by Insect Science on 30 April there’s a Limpopo Cup XCO event at Summerplace Game Reserve on the exact route on 12 February 2022. To find out more or to enter, click here. Accommodation at Summerplace Game Reserve is limited, so book early here. There is also additional accommodation in the area.
For more information, contact Simone Baber on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Roots Media