Underberg – As one of the handful of riders to have done every single edition of the KAP sani2c, Scottburgh MTB stalwart Flavio Scarpa says the three day classic is very much part of his make-up and can’t wait to share the experience with his teenage son next year.
Dubbed the ‘Black Mambas’, Scarpo was part of the group of 18 riders in 2014 honoured for having done every one of the first ten editions of the race from outside Himeville to Scottburgh, and plans to do keep on doing then tough three-day challenge every year.
“It is such a great ride,” enthused Scarpa. A 51 year-old civil foreman at Sappi’s Umkomaas operation. “It’s got it all. There is such a great vibe around the race and at the overnight stops, and it is such good value for money.”
Scarpa, himself a MTB race organiser and the man behind the popular Sappi Scottburgh MTB race, helped “Farmer” Glen Haw design the initial routes for the three day ride, and having ridden the route sixteen times between the sani2c, joberg2c and several recce routes Scarpa appreciates the way that the route has changed over the years.
“It is easier now,” admits Scarpa. “The early sani2cs had some seriously tough hills, with legendary sections on Day Two like Satan, Haibo 1 and Haibo 2, and Rock Rabbit, that have all gone now. Some of the big climbs have gone and left a really flowing pleasant ride.
“It’s the Black Mambas like me that can really appreciate how tough those early rides were, and how good a ride the race is now,” adds Scarpa. “The sani2c is as hard as you ride it. If you want it harder and more technical, just ride it faster!
“It is a race that you have to respect. You have to do the preparation otherwise you are going to battle,” says Scarpa.
As one of the race regulars Scarpa has become a popular personality at the overnight stops.
“A lot of the people at McKenzie and Jolivet have been there for many years and I really look forward to seeing the familiar faces. Lindsay, who is part of the catering team at McKenzie expects me to announce myself every year as the Arrival of the Italian Stallion!
“That’s the vibe that makes this race so special,” he says.
He is quick to single out the second day of the 2005 race as one of the toughest days he has ever had in the saddle.
“There was a major downpour overnight and the drop into the Umko valley, back in the day when we went down those concrete strips, was pure mud. We slipped and slid and pushed our bikes all the way down to the river where the soil type changes before the climb out of the valley.
“The one day that comes close was the first day of the 2006 race when the drizzle just never let up. We had at least 70km of pure mud. I remember some guys taking 12 hours to finish that day!” says Scarpa.
“I cannot imagine a year without a sani in it,” says Scarpa. “But I really can’t wait for is the chance to do it with my son. Next year he will be 17 I think he will be ready for it. He drops me over 20 kilometres now and longer than 40km I come back at home.”
“I still get that same feeling every time I get to the finish in Scottburgh at the end of a sani2c. It is a mixture of relief, exhilaration and excitement,” says Scarpa.