The 2019 PWC Great Zuurberg trek came to an end today as riders enjoyed three days of incredible riding in the Eastern Cape. Stage 1 saw the women’s category stage honours secured in a commanding fashion by Campbell and Scowby of Aspire Livefit/Thule. With the majority of the women in the field taking part in the mixed category, the pair from Port Elizabeth are only up against Eleanor Brummer and Andrea Duffin. The Aspire Livefit/Thule women thus made the most of their time on the trails. “It was an awesome day” Campbell enthused after crossing the line. “The weather played ball, the singletrack was amazing and that first downhill was insane.”
Behind the top three men’s teams Robyn de Groot was the first solo rider across the line. The South African marathon champion showed that she is continuing her remarkable return to racing and could well dent the egos of any of the leading men’s teams by usurping their places on the overall podium if they should slip up.
Campbell, Scowby and the rest of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek field were be hoping for more of the same great weather over the next two days. Temperatures in the mid-20s and little, to no, wind was predicted for Saturday and Sunday to compliment the spectacular trails. Stage 2, the queen stage, was an 88 kilometre long route which featured a significant 1 750 metres of climbing, but provided more exceptional Eastern Cape views as a reward.
Stage 2 saw riders climbing the Zuurberg Mountains, descending into the Great Karoo and climbing back up into the Zuurberg Mountains. It was always going to be a serious test of fitness and skill. The rocky Karoo trails, though heralded as fantastic by one and all, provided a challenge newcomers to the race were perhaps not expecting. The first woman across the line, though not officially a race finisher as she is taking part individually, was Robyn de Groot. The rider from George finished the stage in a faster time than she managed in 2018, when she raced with Ariane Lüthi. Thus adding more proof to the mounting evidence that she is well on her way back to peak form. She did however have one nervous moment when she very nearly crashed on the White Knuckles descent from the heights of the Zuurberg Mountains to the Karoo planes 300 metres below. “I ended up running it out” de Groot smiled. “There was a cameraman there so I really hope he got it.”
In the women’s category the two team tussle for PwC Great Zuurberg Trek honours once again went the way of the Aspire Livefit/Thule team. Campbell and Scowby completed the stage in a time of 5 hours, 5 minutes and 13 seconds. They now hold a significant advantage overs Eleanor Brummer and Andrea Duffin, which only a catastrophe could dent.
The final stage of the race, took place in the spectacular Hayterdale Trails. The 50 kilometre route may have only included 1 200 metres of climbing, but that climbing was back-loaded. The day’s most significant ascent takes place in the final 10 kilometres where riders had to grind up the Zuurberg Pass. Before that though they were treated to trails like Zorr’s Rollercoaster, Corkscrew and Rabbit Hole. Plus, the very alluringly named Miles for Free section of trail.
The highlight of the day, for the winning women’s team of Tracey Campbell and Michelle Scowby, was the bridge which linked the two halves of the Hayterdale Trails. “Going over the bridge meant we didn’t have to climb the gravel road” Campbell explained. Rather they, and the rest of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek field, could maximise their time in the singletracks.
With the 2019 PwC Great Zuurberg Trek coming to a close the riders crossed the final finish line, at the Zuurberg Mountain Inn. There, First Choice dairies High-Protein Recovery milks awaited; followed by the final delicious lunch and a Darling Brew beer or two, to swap war stories from the trails over. Some meanwhile were already looking ahead to 2020, when the race will take place from 29 to 31 May. Entries to next year’s race open on 10 June 2019. In the meantime though, mountain biking fans can relive all the action from this year’s PwC Great Zuurberg Trek by visiting @zuurbergtrekker on Twitter, @great_zuurberg_trek on Instagram and Great Zuurberg Trek Facebook.
Here's a look at some great images from the 2019 Race: