The traditionally tough Garden Route 300 will be significantly easier on the legs in 2016, as race director Pax Mostert has taken the decision to shorten the daily distances and cut down on the meters of climbing. The GR Lite follows a similar trend, with the emphasis on packing the Lite route with as much great riding as possible – without the sting in the tail.
Scheduled only two weeks before the 2016 Cape Epic, there was concern that as one of the traditional Epic warm-up events the GR300 would be too tough if it boasted similar kilometres covered and meters gained as in previous years. With the Epic in mind all three days have been shortened and the dreaded portage through the Homtini River has also been avoided. These changes will not only save your legs for the Epic but also ensure you enjoy the sublime trails of the GR300 and GR Lite from start of Day 1 to the finish of Day 3.
In addition to the three days of scintillating mountain biking both the GR300 and GR Lite routes will boast three water points daily, where your energy requirements will be taken care of by the official water point sponsors: Woolworths.
Day 1 Route Overview
Date: 26 February 2016
Start/Finish: Quay 4, Thesen Harbour Town
Start Time: 07:00
Day 1 of the 2016 GR300 sets the tone for the event with a day packed full of forest singletrack, the 77km route features 1 800 meters of ascent and at least 40km of beautiful singletrack. The route makes use of local trails under the lush green canopy of the world famous Knysna indigenous forest. Locals and GR300 regulars will revisit landmarks like the Akkerkloof and Gleeb Dams as well as taking in the iconic Harkerville Red Route in reverse, which provides a unique perspective on the sea-side trail and the views it offers.
The GR Lite riders will enjoy much of the same route as the longer GR300 riders, but without the technical Harkerville Red Route sections. It’s a day to get the legs going and the reflexes sharpened for the amazing trails which await on Day 2.
Day 2 Route Overview
Date: 27 February 2016
Start/Finish: Garden Route Trail Park, Barrington
Start Time: 08:00
Day 2 is the day South African mountain bike stage race aficionados have been waiting for; the opportunity to ride the Garden Route Trail Park’s world class trails during a multi-stage ride. It’s the undoubted highlight of the 2016 GR300 and GR Lite and if you haven’t ridden the Garden Route Trail Park yet it’s reason enough to enter, as anyone who’s visited the Park will attest.
Day 2 starts and finishes at Rob Dormehl’s Garden Route Trail Park in Barrington, 40km from Thesen Harbour Town in Knysna. Riders can drive to the start, enjoy a complimentary coffee and rusks while taking in the beauty of an area one usually misses as you drive by en-route to somewhere up or down the N2. The 70km route for the GR300 Day 2 includes a tough 2 650 meters of climbing, but with so many epic trails to include the uphill slogs will be well worth-while. Riders take in a section of the Trail Park before heading towards Farleigh and then out into the Garden Route National Park. The views are breath-taking; lush indigenous forest, orderly plantations, a patchwork of dairy cattle grazing fields and if it’s a clear day you’ll be able to see the Garden Route lakes and the Indian Ocean shimmering in the distance.
Then there are the thrilling descents to look forward to! The route heads for home through the Garden Route Trail Park, taking in sweeping berms, flowing forest singletracks and the odd technical feature offering the more skilled riders the opportunity to take to the air. For the GR Lite riders the 45km route includes 1 600 meters of ascent and is a little less technical, but it does include the most fun sections of the Garden Route Trail Park so while you miss out on the climbing you don’t miss out on the best trails in South Africa.
The festivities don’t end at the finish line on Day 2, there’s a braai on the Garden Route Trail Park for lunch while the day’s prizes are awarded before riders head back to Knysna to get ready for supper at Quay 4 from 18:00.
Day 3 Route Overview
Date: 28 February 2016
Start/Finish: Quay 4, Thesen Harbour Town
Start Time: 07:00
Prize Giving: 13:00
The final day of the 2016 GR300 and GR Lite offers the supporters a chance to see their riders in action as the route heads out to the west of Knysna, for a 85km day on the bike with 1 800 meters of ascent. The day’s highlight is the Portland Heights Singletrack Enduro. Again riders will be treated to sublime forest singletracks, though both the indigenous Knysna Forest and Cape Pine plantations. Day 3 is in elephant country so keep your eyes peeled for the enigmatic Ou Poot and for a glimpse of the rarely seen Cape Leopard.
You can take in the sights and sounds of the forest safe in the knowledge that you won’t be crossing the dreaded ‘Hydro’ section in 2016, so you’ll have energy to burn when you hit the famous Phantom Singletrack as you race for home at the race village on Thesen Harbour Town.
GR Lite entrants will finish off their Garden Route Experience with a final day of 68km, including 1 400 meters of climbing – and even the most exhausted of riders will be nursed home by the three, mouth-wateringly stocked, Woolworths water points.
Before packing up and heading for home the final lunch at Quay 4 will allow for a few moments of reverie and of course announce the category winners. GR300 entrants can compete in the Open Male, Open Female, Masters or Grand Masters categories; where all podium places will be rewarded. For the GR Lite riders there are prizes for the top three solo men and women overall.
To enter the 2016 Garden Route 300 or GR Lite please visit the www.gardenrouteevents.co.za website or click here to go straight to the entry portal. Entry fees include a limited edition race kit, registration bag, all meals at Quay 4, a braai at the Garden Route Trail Park on Saturday the 27th, a finisher’s gift and tellingly the best three days of riding you’ll experience in 2016. Enter before the 31st of December to take advantage of the early bird rate of R4 480 per rider. From the 1st of January entries will be R4 800 per rider.
2016 Garden Route 300 & GR Lite
Dates: 26 – 28 February 2016
Venue: Quay 4, Thesen Islands, Knysna
Registration: 25 February, 16:00 to 21:00 at Quay Four
Facebook: Garden Route Events