The mix was just perfect as a famous mountain bike brand combined with a spectacular new venue to produce a memorable RockyFest 2014. The brand was Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Afriski in Lesotho, with stunning, freshly-cut single and downhill tracks provided the backdrop to this event. With participants having to make use of a ski lift to negotiate the mountain, it was bound to be an experience to remember.
The superb and warm hospitality shown by the staff was evident from the time we arrived at AfriSki in the northern Lesotho highlands on Friday afternoon.
Eager cyclists arriving the Friday in the afternoon pitched tents, lubed chains, adjusted gears, pumped tyres and prepared themselves physically and mentally for the weekend ahead and the high altitude challenges.
Additional sections had been added by the legendary trail-builders at the AfriSki resort and five minutes on the bike, surrounded by towering mountain peaks, was enough to confirm that this was a special place to ride.
The trails were both exceptionally well-marked and created. Starting off with Bambi’s Revenge, this newly-added section took us up to 3 330m above sea level. The extraordinary single track took riders over exciting obstacles, tight twists and turns, inviting berms on soil that encouraged letting go of all brakes and ripping the corners with gravel spraying in all directions.
Adding to the excitement of the moment, was a flurry of snow while riders were on the single track. The exhilarating, freshly-cut section ran next to the ridge of the mountains close to the AfriSki resort. With the river far below and the vast range of mountains in the background, this was mountain biking at its most beautiful.
After a delicious lunch at the Sky Restaurant, an exciting night ride was in prospect. The crisp fresh air all contributed to a perfect evening’s ride in the Maluti mountains.
The amazing Knog lights were tested as we rode up to a plateau halfway up the mountain where we were greeted by a massive bonfire and a glass of gluhwein before we also had a taste of the tracks we would face the next day.
After a delicious buffet breakfast at the Sky Restaurant on Saturday morning a group of 20 riders took to the escarpment while some cyclists enjoyed the new tracks on their enduro bikes – and being pulled up by the ski lift after every run.
Guided on a 13km one-way track to the escarpment meant a 26km round-trip with 960m vertical ascent. And this was all over 3 000 m above sea level. The challenge was to keep a good pace but it was as much a test of the riders’ technical skills as it was of their fitness with a high altitude ride of between three and four hours over a terrain is packed with climbs and dips.
Most of the cyclists underestimated the 13km and what would have been a warm-up ride in normal conditions was a challenge in the mountains.
Still, it was fitting day for riding with the weather holding up well and all the participants made it the escarpment and home safely. They returned with a real sense of achievement after the climb to the edge of the escarpment which brought a stunning view over the vastness of the Free State. Certainly the riders felt entirely justified in making their way to the Sky Restaurant for refreshments, a well-deserved Craft beer especially brewed for the event and a delicious lunch.
From the Sky Restaurant the ski slopes and the newly-created HD tracks are clearly visible. Some took to the ski lifts to the start of the DH tracks and those still chilling out at the Sky Restaurant were entertained by the adrenalin junkies flying down the DH tracks.
It had been a spectacular day of mountain biking and the evening was spent swapping war stories around a spit braai at the Sky Restaurant and savouring what had been a highly successful and enjoyable RockyFest 2014.
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