The sun came out to ensure a spectacular finish to the Potberg & De Hoop MTB on Sunday as riders completed the second and final day of the event. With droplets of rain still glinting off every leaf the magnificent De Hoop Nature Reserve was showcased in all her glory by the day’s compact but challenging route.
The day started with a loop along an old jeep track to the bottom of the De Hoop Vlei. After the muddy trails of Day One, the limestone surface of the jeep track was mercifully well-drained allowing riders to enjoy the scenery without having to be constantly on the lookout for the driest line. And the scenery was plentiful; from eland and bontebok on the plains to numerous species of protea and ericas in bloom and bird life aplenty on the vlei.
After the short initial loop the route turned towards the tar road climb out of De Hoop Nature Reserve, then followed the rolling gravel road over the limestone dunes towards the farmlands beyond. In the heart of the rugged limestone dunes the route branched from the gravel road and followed a jeep track up a ridge before descending to the head-waters of the vlei. The descent was exhilarating, but the vistas from the trail along the banks of the vlei were even better. A flock of pelicans feeding in the shallows on the far bank were an ice white contrast to the Coca-Cola coloured waters, the lush green vegetation beyond and the craggy brown cliff-faces above.
Crossing the vlei riders were able to ride the causeway in 2016 and again not having to emerge with wet feet was appreciated all-round. Another five kilometres later, at roughly the 35km mark, the first crossing of the Kat River put pay to any hopes of a day of dry feet. But fortunately the biggest crossing of the river featured a floating a bridge this year.
After ten or so crossings of the Kat River the route started the accent back up the limestone dunes towards De Hoop. The singletrack climb wasn’t steep, but the combination of loose rocks and rocky shelves, stepping up in small increments gradually sapping every rider’s energy, made it technically challenging.
From the top of the last singletrack climb just a few rolling hills separated the riders from the long downhill to the finish at the De Hoop Collection’s stunning function venue, overlooking the vlei. Upon crossing the finish line riders were once again treated to a Mitchell’s beer, which given how the morning had warmed up was well appreciated.
At prize giving, where forfeits were imposed on the first man and woman to cross the finish line and prizes were awarded for stories from the trails, race director Patric Mosterd announced that for 2017 the Potberg & De Hoop MTB would feature a more compact route, focusing on showcasing the De Hoop section of the Potberg and De Hoop Nature Reserves. This will likely mean that next year’s race will feature two 50km stages; making it more family friendly, by freeing up time on Saturday afternoon for riders to explore the wonders of De Hoop with their non-riding partners and children.
For those of you who missed the 2016 Potberg & De Hoop MTB the good news is that many of the routes are used are permanently marked and are accessible for guests of the De Hoop Collection all year around. For more information on the mountain biking trails and all the other outdoor activities on offer at De Hoop Nature Reserve please visit www.dehoopcollection.com.