As we came around the corner we saw a rider off his bike, on the ground. We braked and noticed that he was fine, but he was pulling up a bicycle from the edge! On the other side of that bike, we saw a rider who’d obviously gone off the edge, clawing his way back up to the trail, his arms bleeding. We stopped to help and happened to film it on a GroPro.

By Sean Badenhorst

See what I did there? Would you have read this article if the intro just gushed about the Umko Drop on Stage 2 of KAP Sani2c? I’ll get to the Umko Drop drama in a bit.

Relaxed before the start of Stage 2. We really liked these Ciovita jerseys!

After Cade’s cramping on Stage 1, we were a bit concerned that something similar may happen on Stage 2. He sprayed Magnesium on his quads before the stage, packed Magnesium spray and some USN Cramp Block tablets in a pocket. We set off expecting a long day and hoping that we’d have minimal ‘traffic’ down the Umko Drop. Turns out, just raising his saddle by 5mm seems to have done the trick as we were test-riding Specialized bikes that had arrived shortly before our Sani2c trip.

A few minutes after the dusty gravel-road start, Cade told me that his GoPro Mini wasn’t reading the SD card. This was a big problem for me because we were riding as a Media team and gathering content was a high priority. After stopping to see if we could sort it out, we realised it wasn’t’ something we could fix.

Heading to the Umkomaas Valley. It was around here that Cade realised he had a problem with his GoPro Mini SD card

We caught back up to most of our group – D-Group – and as we started to hit the first singletrack we saw the event’s photographers and videographers. Cade said: “Why don’t we ask Tyrone if he has a spare SD card?” Great idea and a few minutes later, there was Tyrone Bird, flying a drone and able to assist. The few minutes this took turned out to be great for our timing. We were well behind D-Group but ahead of E-Group.

As riders with above average skill, we wanted to really enjoy the 25km singletrack descent into the Umkomaas Valley, one of the world’s most iconic pieces of mountain bike trail. Especially as this was Cade’s first opportunity to experience this piece of trail nirvana. This delay worked in our favour…

Left: An iPhone snap of my wife, Joanne as we reached that tree in 2018. Right: an iPhone snap of Cade at the same treee. Notice improved photo quality…

As the sun rose, the clouds started to shift a bit and created superb visibility as well as stunning light and sky, both important for imagery and both always something I think about when snapping pics or videos while riding. There’s a tree on the left of the trail on one of the turns, fairly early on, that’s become a photographer’s favourite. It’s easy to see why… In 2018, the last time I descended the Umko Drop when teamed up with my wife, Joanne, I snapped some pics of her at that tree. I planned to do the same with Cade.

We seemed to reach it a little unexpectedly, so I quickly whipped my phone out and started snapping. Cade switched his GoPro Mini on and we cruised around the famous turn past the tree.

Not a sight you’re really prepared for, but fortunately it worked out okay. You can see Cade pulling up the stricken rider via his GoPro Mini footage if you look the Sani2c Stage 2 reel I have posted on my own instagram account

As we came around the corner we saw a rider off his bike, on the ground. We braked and noticed that he was fine, but he was pulling up a bicycle from the edge! On the other side of that bike, we saw a rider who’d obviously gone off the edge, clawing his way back up to the trail, his arms bleeding. We stopped to help. Cade helped pull the stricken rider up to the trail, his GoPro still recording (we have posted an edit on my personal Instagram account).

Once we could see the stricken rider was okay, we continued with the Umko Drop, which was absolutely sublime and exactly how I expected it to be – fast, fun, flowy and exceptionally well maintained.

All good things must come to an end though, but once the descending stops, the ride along the Umkomaas River banks is also truly special. It’s so remote and peaceful and the floating bridges that actually get you there are so stable and well-constructed that you cannot help but feel incredibly privileged to be riding a bicycle right there!

Years and years of commitment, hard work and passion have gone into building that trail into and along the Umkomaas River valley. Only those that have ridden the early editions will truly appreciate the extent of the achievement. I only did my first Sani2c in 2012 so missed the early years, but I do truly value what is essentially combination of true South African farmer art, engineering and desire.

The climb out of the valley is also memorable, but not as fun. Once we reached Iconic, the 1.9km beast of an ascent that’s become another signature feature of this race, Cade and I separated. He’s a stronger climber than me and we decided it’s best on long climbs to ride our own comfortable pace and then he waits for me at the summit.

I wasn’t sure if I could climb the whole ascent without stopping. I decide that I would try. But about a quarter of the way up on quite a rough section, my heart rate was near its maximum and I had to either stop, or vomit. I decided to stop. Turns out, that was my only stop. I rode the rest and did consider stopping another time, but then thought of my friend, Tim Brink, who is sadly losing his battle to cancer and kept going because this momentary suffering was nothing compared to his.

Cade rode the whole thing, which didn’t surprise me. It’s actually tougher than I remember, but I am six years older than when I last tackled it. My request to the organisers is to never make Iconic any easier. Humans need tough challenges to prevent them from becoming soft. And mountain bikers share similar traits to humans.

The rest of the stage was pretty smooth. We both felt quite good after Iconic and enjoyed the gradual climbs and descents to the finish. Although it’s a longer stage than Stage 1, it’s not as hard. We both felt more creased after Stage 1 than Stage 2 and our effort measures on Training Peaks and Strava confirmed that. It should be noted that we were riding this event, not racing it. Our finish time on Stage 1 was 4:53:36 and on Stage 2, 5:35:19.

Happy to be finished! We were surprisingly strong in the last 20 kays or so on this stage

I can confirm that riding the Umko Drop with Cade is something I will treasure forever. As Enduro mountain bikers, we have done many great descending trails together all around South Africa. Slicing our way down to the Umkomaas River on superbly built trails, riding great bikes and enjoying 100% health and fitness in perfect weather conditions is a moment that will surely be a lifetime highlight for me.

This second part of this experience review is already well over a thousand words, so I’ll end it here. In Part 3, I’ll cover the final stage, describe our bikes and get more of Cade’s perspective of the event. Do check out our KAP Sani2c reels on the TREAD Instagram account for a more visual summary of our experience.

Entries are already open for the 2025 edition of KAP sani2c. You can find out more and enter here.