Nature reserves, whales, proteas, vultures and extraordinary MTB

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Fltr: Nikki Biesheuvel (third), Katie Lennard (first), Lara Lyness (second)

The third annual Potberg and De Hoop MTB event took place in the Overberg region from 7-9 August and proved to be a feast for mountain bikers and nature lovers alike.

Participants enjoyed three glorious days of traversing two nature reserves, Potberg and De Hoop, on their mountain bikes. While last year’s event sizzled in an entirely different way when the beautiful old historical building was razed to the ground in a devastating fire, this year the event was HOT – without tragedy.

Hosts William and Nini Stephens of De Hoop Collections have worked tirelessly over the last year and pulled out all the stops to create the new “Shed”. The new venue – alongside the magnificent De Hoop vlei is the perfect venue in a perfect location for this awesome mountain bike race.

Day one started 20km away at the Kliphuis in Potberg. The first 12km took riders through private, bright yellow canola fields with many ostriches curiously staring at the unusual sight of more than 100 cyclists racing through their usually quiet turf. The Breede River Conservancy led the riders towards the first water point on the doorstep of the St. Sebastian Olive farm – the largest olive farm in the Southern Hemisphere. The highest point of the route – the Potberg – came next after a single track climb through wild protea shrubs and fauna unique to this area.  The crest rewarded riders with a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean below. From there, the route descended back into the Potberg reserve towards and beyond water point two, hosted by the Knysna Development Sport School. From there the ride went through Wildskamp, teeming with herds of bontebok, eland and flocks of blue cranes to mention a few of the highlights. The day finished after local landowner Wouter and his friendly Ouplaas Agri waterpoint staff fuelled riders before the final stretch to the finish at the De Hoop Collection Shed, where they were greeted by Gunther and a glass of Mitchells’ Craft Beer.

Day two offered a choice of two routes around De Hoop reserve. Starting at 09h00, riders headed south towards the dunes past the De Hoop Vlei and were greeted by a flock of startled resident pelicans. Justin Tuck and fellow Sales Hire racing team mates made their break and maintained their overall lead down the 4km descent to the northern point of the vlei, where the flooded causeway forced riders to carry their bikes over the 100m crossing – adding an unexpected and exciting element to the day. The Knysna Education Trust at water point two gave welcome relief to riders before the final challenging single track climb. Riders then descended back into De Hoop Reserve to the finish at the De Hoop Collection Shed.  Finishers were rewarded with bottle of Sijnn 2012 Low Profile red from local Sijnn Winery – the very first winery in the Malgas area. Overall ladies winner was Katie Lennard, who came in just seconds behind the overall male leader, Justin Tuck. He was followed closely by team mates Shaun Sale and Frank Lennard. Second and third ladies were Lara Lyness and Nikki Biesheuvel.

Day three offered a social ride to Koppie Alleen where guides at De Hoop gave an informative talk about the whales wallowing in the swells below. After a hearty bacon and egg roll, riders bid a sad farewell. Next year, the event will take place on the first weekend in spring – 3 and 4 September 2016. For more info on this and other exciting mountain biking events, go to www.gardenrouteevents.co.za.