Gravel & Grape commits to MTB growth

Gravel & Grape trail builders after a cycle. From left: Hannes Martiens; Gavin Vermeulen; Justin Brand; Isak Vermeulen; Doela Vermeulen; Danfred Lukas; Jerome Cupido ; Kotie Vermeulen and Johannes Brand

Gravel & Grape trail builders after a cycle. From left: Hannes Martiens; Gavin Vermeulen; Justin Brand; Isak Vermeulen; Doela Vermeulen; Danfred Lukas; Jerome Cupido ; Kotie Vermeulen and Johannes Brand

The Gravel & Grape MTB, which features a three-day Extreme and two-day Adventure, will be taking place on the weekend of 5th May.

The event is now in its third year, and organisers are working hard to ensure that both the Extreme and the Adventure create a mountain bike legacy in an area that isn’t traditionally renowned for the sport.

While the Breedekloof Wine Valley is a well-known attraction for wine enthusiasts, the region has recently started making overtures to the mountain biking set – largely by launching the Gravel & Grape. A serious of stunning trails have been cut to ensure that the Extreme and the Adventure give riders a thrilling experience in early May. What’s more, the Gravel & Grape is relying on local talent to cut the trails with the specific aim of creating work and potentially an industry in the region.

Under the guidance of event organiser Hennus Trotzky and Louis van Nieuwenhuizen a group of local farmworkers are being mentored to build the trails for the Gravel & Grape. Those that have shown an interest in riding have also been sponsored in the past to take part in the event. This will be done again this year.

“One idea behind the strategy is to encourage the farm workers to take their bikes and ride, in order to stay fit and healthy,” says organizing committee chair Pieter Carstens. “Further to this, it is also the idea that the trail builders get developed into a formal BBEEE enterprise with their own equipment. They can then become a company that outsources its services to build trails in other areas as well.”

The trails built by the new local trail building crew have already been used in 2017, for a Western Province provincial cross-country event. The unique track features bridge crossings, sweeping single track, winding berms and technical, but enjoyable riding through forests and wine farms. The trail used in the provincial cross-country event will form part of the Gravel & Grape Extreme’s day three and the Gravel & Grape Adventure’s day two.

“It’s been a rewarding programme,” says Hennus Trotzky. “My colleague in the programme Louis started with three or four guys, now we are up to 10. They have all started cycling, and now their children have started cycling. One of the local farmers has also sponsored bikes for them too.”

Van Nieuwenhuizen says that the trail building team has been hard at work in 2017 to provide an exceptional experience for all riders participating in Gravel & Grape. “The guys enjoy the work very much because firstly, it is a huge challenge – but no bush or rock can stop them. Secondly, they have learned determination. And thirdly, the team gets satisfaction and a sense of ownership as they have built these great trails by themselves.”

The Gravel & Gravel event will also give back to the local community through the Rawsonville Vryburgers, an organisation that does a lot of charity work in the Breedekloof Wine Valley. Rawsonville Vryburgers will provide catering at the event, and any profit made from their involvement at Gravel & Grape will go towards local upliftment causes.