Runners and cyclists discover greater Karkloof area

Mountain bikers and trail runners alike are set to enjoy the Karkloof region's magnificent sights and sounds when they take on this weekend's 2016 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival at Karkloof Country Club. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Mountain bikers and trail runners alike are set to enjoy the Karkloof region’s magnificent sights and sounds when they take on this weekend’s 2016 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival at Karkloof Country Club. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Howick – Mountain bikers and trail runners alike are in for an off-road adventure treat at this weekend’s 2016 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival as a combination of new and reworked routes will see participants snake their way through the spectacular region of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Saturday’s Enduro together with Sunday’s 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon, 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, 20km aQuellé Family Ride and 10km aQuellé Kids Ride events offer mountain bikers a full spectrum of disciplines and distances to choose from based on their age and ability while the 21km, 10km and 5km trail running events all offer runners something different.

“The 60km will remain quite similar to what riders have experienced over the past couple of years however we have made a few tweaks here and there,” confirms trail builder extraordinaire, Hylton Turvey.

“We have changed the first climb though and now, once the field has spread itself out a bit over the first fifteen kilometres, riders will climb up a contouring trail rather than the previous stretch of jeep track.

“At the bottom of the Bat Out of Hell descent riders used to go along a road to connect with the next climb, however we’ve now found an old cattle path that goes along the river for three kilometres which is another nice addition.

“The 40km race is where most of the changes have come in with the new route taking riders in a completely different direction.

“We’ve spent five weeks building a new three kilometer stretch – now known as The Bachelor after I rode this stretch with a group of mates the day before my wedding – which goes through some forest at the top before the bottom grassland stretch known as Skyfall.

“Once there was a stream running through here that has since dried up and so instead of water, there will now be riders flowing through it!

“The 20km and 10km routes will no longer have any single track and will head along jeep track and district roads only, catering for those that enjoy cycling but perhaps find riding trail a little daunting.”

The popular STIHL Karkloof Enduro adds another element to the weekend’s diverse programme of events and this route has also enjoyed a recent makeover.

“Previously we’ve used the 60km marathon race’s route to stage the Enduro however this year we’ll be using the new 40km course for Saturday’s racing!

“This will take the Enduro guys to a completely different section of the area and bring them closer to the Club as they tackle four shorter, slightly more technical stages than before.”

Newly added to the weekend’s line-up, the three trail running outings are set to offer those on foot a spectacular, scenic adventure with all the elements that the Karkloof region has become renowned for.

“We’ve made great use of the fantastic existing trails in the area as well as some jeep track in a way that will allow participants of all three running events to enjoy a typical Karkloof experience,” says Trail Running Coordinator, Barry Hulett.

“This includes forested single track with pine needles underfoot, some beautiful landscape as well as great lookout points.”

With the difference in pace allowing for mountain bikers to enjoy a fresh perspective of the region by foot, Hulett urges all outdoor adventures to make a weekend of the festival by taking on both disciplines.

“Doing both a trail run and the mountain bike race will give participants such varied experiences given the slower pace of run than the cycle and the minimal overlapping of the routes means the geographies being discovered in each event will also differ greatly.

“The 5km run is of a moderate level with a little bit of climbing and a few technical sections that anyone with a little bit of exposure to trails and an acceptable endurance fitness level will cope with comfortably.

“The 10km race is then a bit more technically challenging and steeper while the 21km is of a similar technical level to that of the 10km route but is obviously for someone relatively fit.”

The 2016 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival takes place at Karkloof Country Club on Saturday, 4 and Sunday, 5 June. The event offers 21km, 10km and 5km trail running races, 60km, 40km, 20km and 10km mountain bikes events as well as an Enduro. Entries can be submitted via www.roag.co.za while more information can be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za.