Photo by: Em gatland
Let’s face it…the chance to ride your bicycle through parts of untouched South Africa from Gauteng all the way to the sea is any seasoned mountain biker's dream. The race is not solely dedicated to the winners and fastest times of the day, but more to allow every single rider a chance to enjoy and engage with their fellow riders, the landscapes and trails and the people and communities along the way. The joBerg2C legacy is not just about the race but about the experience of pushing yourself and your body through barriers and getting to meet extra ordinary people who love to ride bikes and build trails. Laura-Beth is a seasoned, somewhat crazy mountain biker who jumped at the chance to ride the beloved country. She became one of the privileged riders who experienced this special race and enjoyed every second…
9 Days, 900 km's on a MTB! What was I thinking? Let’s be honest - I wasn’t really.“Come on, LB. We need to do a new race,” he said. “It will be fun,” he said.Fun? Are you joking?It was %$#*&% awesome! Every element was awesome! In hindsight, even the bum clinic was a lag!(see what I did there?)Embarking on an event such as this, you need to put in the work. Don’t let them fool you with, “Ja bru, but it’s not Epic.”Ja, it’s not - it’s 200kms longer! So, put in the training and you will reap the sweetest rewards!
Day 1, Heidelberg:It’s cold, there’s coffee and free rusks, there’s a vibe in the air that you can play with your glove-clad fingers.The sun is shining and the hay bales are glinting; the music is pumping and 600 mountain bikers are amped for this adventure across our beautiful country. The vuvuzela blows and the start of an amazing 9-day journey begins.Being a bit of a race snake and overly competitive, my partner and I wanted to give our best shot at the mixed, hoping for a top ten. So, at times we didn’t savour the hospitality offerings as long as we wanted to but they were events in themselves.
The communities along the route are so involved, excited and committed to the event, you are treated like dirt kings and queens. Which race do you get condensed milk dipped marshmallows in the middle of the countryside, alongside a beautiful river? Not to mention the MIELIEPOPPERS! This was the bench mark and the norm for the 9 days’ water tables; happy smiley people - happy to assist, feed and water you,whether a front runner , middle of the pack or bringing up the rear. In fact, I think they saved some extra portions for the back field. The nightly villages have out-of-this-world hospitality and the finest food and drink in abundance! Truly amazing and all the schools and communities that were involved, THANK YOU!The camaraderie amongst the riders was fantastic, the banter and encouragement was what makes me proud to ride across this country. There were many foreigners entered in the race, from all over. Riders who have ridden the Trans Alps, Trans Portugal , The Rockies, and more. And yet, this is the race they continue to return to, repeatedly! Why? They tell me it’s the riding. I’ll come back to this, but more importantly it’s the people and the communities. They love South Africa, which made me proud, proud that we the people are part of why they keep coming back, again and again.
I think Wappo’s wit and fabulous spirit of community has a lot to do with this too. Wappo, Farmer Gary and Farmer Glen have created a race, a brand and a way of life for those who have dirt in their blood! The three of them have a fantastic banter every night, and a genuine care for the communities they support through the race, as well as for the safety and enjoyment of each rider.This brings me to the route. Mind blowing!Even the long district roads (you can get some serious pace going) through the Free State are magnificent.You just have to go to the website and watch the Miele Spin of the Day vids, to see just how beautiful our country is and how awesome the riding was.
My favourite (and I think a lot of the field’s highlights)included Great Wall My China and the descent off the escarpment! That was insane - I whooped and squealed like a kid on my first roller coaster. It was fantastic. I also realised that one wrong move at that pace and I’m tickets! I’m not going to give you everyday’s trail highlights. Just know that all 9 days were highlights! Tough and beautiful. And the racing? It was good! For those who wanted to race, we raced. The Mixed teams from 5th – 10th were highly contended(the10 of us knew this! ) We were teams from all over the world -England , Austria, Sweden, Germany, and SA, and we raced each other. Every day! It was exhilarating, it was fun, it was exhausting, it was a highlight of my MTB’ing!
We raced, we supported, we laughed! We will see each other again next year.Thank you, Sean for being the best racing partner a girl could wish for, even when I found the tents a bit much(next year we’re camper-vanning). And I suppose the guys are right - it’s not the Epic, it’s the JOBERG2Cand it’s in your blood and soul!Thank you Wappo, Farmer Gary, Farmer Glen and your wonderful families and communities for giving me such a magnificent experience. I will be back!