There’s been a decline in number of entries at mountain bike events over the past couple of years. It’s partly a sign of a maturing market, partly due to the depressed economy and partly due to the growth of mountain bike trails parks throughout the country.

But stage races remain the South African mountain biking staple. They offer travel opportunities, adventure, a physical and mental challenge and something exciting or formidable to train for. Unlike in most of Europe and North America, where recreational riding is dominant, most South Africans want to compete and achieve; and stage races offer that.

Cape Pioneer Trek

The modern South African mountain biker on a budget that’s seeking a stage-race challenge has become more discerning, choosing events that either offer the best value for money or a fresh experience or challenge. What a privilege to live in a country that offers so many well-organised stage races. Since it hasn’t been done before, we decided to do a comparison between stage races to showcase value.

Here’s some information we gathered on two-rider-team full-service stage races in South Africa with a breakdown of cost per team, cost per night and cost per kilometre to offer a platform from which riders can determine what’s important to them. We have 11 stage races (3-4 days) and four long stage races (7-9 days).

Because each race is slightly different, it’s not possible to draw direct comparisons, but we have extracted enough information on each to be able to determine some comparisons.

Berg & Bush


Tables best viewed in landscape

Event Cost per team per day Cost per night’s accommodation per team Cost per km per team Nights included Meals included
Glacier Cradle Traverse | 3 days | entry fee R11900 R3966.66 R3966.67 R96.75 3 9
KAP Sani2c | 3 days | entry fee R15530 R5176.66 R7765.00 R59.50 2 8
Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent | 3 days | entry fee R13300 R4433.33 R6650.00 R63.94 2 8
FNB Wines2Whales | 3 days | entry fee R14500 R4833.33 R7250.00 R70.05 2 8
Prudential PE Plett Tough One | 4 days | entry fee R13900 R3475.00 R4633.33 R46.03 3 9
Trail & Trout | 3 days | entry fee R13735 R3420.00 R5130.00 R51.30 2 7
Momentum Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen | 4 days | entry fee R14990 R3747.50 R4996.00 R51.51 3 9
Lormar Endurance | 3 days | entry fee R8950 R2983.33 R2983.33 R68.32 3 9
Isuzu 3 Towers Race | 3 days | entry fee R9300 R3100.00 R3100.00 R48.19 3 9
Isuzu 3 Towers Challenge | 3 days | entry fee R8300 R2766.67 R2766.67 R58.45 3 9
Glacier Storms River Traverse | 3 days |entry fee R14720 R4906.66 R7360 R93.46 N/A 7 (no breakfast)


Event Cost per team per day Cost per night’s accommodation per team Cost per km per team Nights included Meals included
Liberty TransCape – 7 days R9000.00 R10500.00 R106.60 6 21
Absa Cape Epic – 8 days R10362.50 R11842.86 R132.85 7 20
Old Mutual joBerg2c – 9 days R5511.11 R6200.00 R54.51 8 25
Momentum Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen – 7 days R5172.86 R5172.86 R68.51 7 19


These are all facts and measurables and can offer a decent perspective of value. However, it’s important to note that each event has its own geographic location; its own trail-build quality; its own trail variety; its own vibe; its own quality of field; its own standard of route marking; its own level of attention to detail; its own standard of goodie bag; its own food quality; and its own standard of medical support.

Each of these elements may not seem immediately obvious, but once you have done a few stage races, you get to understand and appreciate what all of these bring to an event – or take away from it if they’re not up to scratch.

Tankwa Trek

Geographic location

From a cost perspective this can be a challenge or a bonus. Some events are in remote areas making it necessary to book flights, car hire and bicycle transportation. This will add to your costs, but it can also add to your enjoyment as the event takes you far from your daily grind.

Cradle Traverse

Trail-build quality

Few will argue that flowing, stimulating singletrack is mountain biking’s holy grail. This singletrack doesn’t create itself. Events that place a high priority on building and including high quality singletrack spend money on this, something that isn’t always considered by entrants.

Trail variety

You could ride three successive days from point-to-point on gravel roads, but then that wouldn’t be stimulating or very challenging. For a complete mountain bike challenge at an event, trail variety is essential. If all the days of a stage race were virtually the same it wouldn’t be worth it. Not many stage races change their routes each year, but those that do are spending additional time, energy and money on making them different each year. For passionate mountain bikers, there’s real value in that.



It’s not the first thing you think about at a stage race, but the vibe can make or break the experience. A race village with a good vibe is a big part of the stage race experience. Appropriate music, discerning MCs, a quality chill zone and no restricted/exclusive areas, are all elements that can add value to an event.

Cape Pioneer Trek

Quality of field

We may not race as fast as them, but it’s always good to have the top pro’s competing alongside us at a stage race. It brings a level of prestige to an event and since we are all timed for each stage, it allows us to make comparisons to the local or international stars of the sport. There aren’t many sports where an average enthusiast participant can compete alongside the big stars of that sport. Those big names don’t arrive at the race out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re enticed by the event’s status (UCI level races offer prizemoney, UCI points and TV exposure, all of which cost the organisers) or an invitation from the organisers, which often includes covering their travel costs. Bottom line is that the big names add a measure of value to any event they’re competing in.

Cape Epic

Route marking

You never really think about route marking until that day when it’s a mess and you end up doing an extra half an hour (or longer!) because the event organisers weren’t thorough. Stage race organisers that place this as a high priority are worth their weight in gold! And don’t think it’s an easy task. One missing marker at a key junction can create chaos and confusion. And in South Africa, it’s not a given that the arrow placed at a key junction will still be there in two hours…

Attention to detail

When you’re still awake at 22h00, unable to fall asleep and feel hungry – it’s real! The stage races that offer snacks, hot drinks and cold drinks for you – at no additional charge – at any time of day or night. That’s attention to detail. When you’re a late finisher and there are still some bean bags available on which to relax. That’s attention to detail. When you’ve eaten one serving and are still hungry and get given a second serving without a grudge. That’s attention to detail. Those are just three examples. Never underestimate the value of attention to detail at a stage race…


Goodie bag

Many participants consider a goodie bag/box an essential part of the stage race entry fee. Some event organisers place high emphasis on this, usually partnering with their apparel sponsors to ensure there’s a memento that can be carried (bags), worn off the bike (jackets, caps, socks etc); or worn on the bike (jerseys, socks, buffs etc) after the event. A high quality goodie bag shouldn’t be taken for granted. It carries real value.


Any mountain biker knows that food is fuel for energy and recovery. And at a stage race, fuel is essential and should come mainly from whole food, such as breakfast, lunch and supper… Give a mountain biker at a stage race low quality – and low quantity – food and he/she will quickly notice and probably not return for another edition. At a stage race, especially those in remote areas, the food supplied by the event is often the only food the riders have access to. Long live stage races that place high emphasis on food quality, variety and quantity…

Cradle Traverse

Medical support

No stage race should start without the highest quality medical support. The safety of participants is always top of mind for stage race organisers. Stage races that skimp on this essential element are doing a disservice to their clients (participants). Most participants at a stage race will not have to encounter the medical support; but those that do will appreciate the quality of this service, which is very much a ‘you-get-what-you-pay-for’ service in South Africa.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we focussed on full-service stage races (those that offer all meals and accommodation as part of the entry fee). There are other stage races where you have to arrange your own accommodation and most meals. And there are stage rides, which aren’t really ‘races’ in the true sense of the word. With the 2019 race calendar about to begin, this should offer some food for thought in terms of where your stage-race commitments will lie. If money is no object, well, do as many as you can because we truly are spoiled for stage-race choice…

Lormar Endurance

To find out more about the featured stage races – or to enter them – follow these links:

Glacier Cradle Traverse (Gauteng):

KAP Sani2c (KwaZulu-Natal):

Grindrod Bank Berg and Bush (KwaZulu-Natal):

FNB Wines2Whales (Western Cape):

Prudential PE Plett (Eastern Cape):

Trail and Trout (Mpumalanga):

Momentum Healthy Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen (Western Cape):

Lormar Endurance (Eastern Cape):

Isuzu 3 Towers (Mpumalanga):

Glacier Storms River Traverse (Western Cape):

TransCape (Western Cape):

Absa Cape Epic (Western Cape):

Old Mutual joBerg2c (Gauteng–KwaZulu-Natal):

Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen (Western Cape):

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