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Nothing But Praise for the PWC Great Zuurberg Trek : Race Report

The PwC Great Zuurberg Trek is a boutique mountain bike stage race that explores the heart of the world-renowned Addo region of the Eastern Cape. Traversing five of the province’s seven biomes, the three-day 200km ride epitomises true mountain biking with a unashamedly luxurious twist. This is where the soul finds freedom, wild elephants roam and the scent of citrus blossoms fills the air. Brothers Rob and Trevor Hayter, whose family have farmed in the Zuurberg Mountains since the 1950s, realised the diverse terrain offered pure riding bliss and decided to share South Africa’s best kept mountain biking secret. After establishing 45km of single-track heaven on their farm Hayterdale, which annually hosts national cross-country racing, they set about exploring the surrounding area for trail-building opportunities.

Riders enjoying the great Eastern Cape region as they ride through the farms and land of local farmers.

Their search led them over the southern and northern ridges of the Zuurberg Mountains and into a symbiotic partnership with South African National Parks. On day one, riders enter the remote northern section of the Addo Elephant National Park, which is traditionally only accessible on horseback or foot. Descending into the Sundays River Valley, they pass Slagboom Dam and the aptly named Orchard of Oranges as they loop back to Zuurberg Pass and the finish at Zuurberg Mountain Village.

The landscapes and views are nothing short of spectacular. Photo by Zane Schmahl

One of the standout features of the race is during the queen stage on day two. After cresting the northern ridge towards the Karoo Koppies section, they are greeted by panoramic views of the Indian Ocean to the south and the vast expanse of the Karoo to the north. On this day, sections known as the Three Stepsisters and For Pete’s Sake provide clues as to why this is regarded as the toughest of the three stages.

But the welcome they get at the finish from the SRCC Foundaton, the event’s official development partner, reminds riders that they did it for a cause. Day three is a celebration of all the region has to offer and once the riders have circuited Henri’s Loop at the hotel, they fly through some world-class single-track, test their technical skills at Hayterdale and make a final push up the pass to earn their medals as Zuurberg trekkers.

Robyn de Groot enjoying the trails during the 2019 PWC Great Zuurberg Trek. Image by Peter Kirk

Leana Cooper was lucky enough to take part in the 2019 event. We asked her about her journey and what the PWC Great Zuurberg Trek means to her. Here is her story...

I was lucky enough to take part in the Great Zuurberg Trek 3 day stage race for the second time in two years. It is described as a boutique race and truly lives up to it's reputation.

The trails and landscapes are just incredible from every angle. a must do race on the South African Stage Race calendar.

The race is based at the Zuurberg Inn hotel situated on top of the Zuurberg Pass in the Addo region. Stunning views over the valley can be experienced from the veranda. As soon as you set foot in the hotel, you realise this is an "intimate" race and personal attention is given. Your first point of contact with race organisers is the friendly faces of Tanya Jackson and Julie Briggs from Mountain Events. They handle the race registration and time keeping for the event. Nothing is too much of an effort for them and they ensure everything runs smoothly.

The co-owner of The Great Zuurberg Trek is Siska van der Bijl. She too is a competitive cyclist and has been involved in choosing new single-track routes at Hayterdale. Siska also sources only the best for the goodie bags valued at R3 000. You will not be disappointed!

Thursday evening is registration at the hotel and it is also a "no wallet" event. Free craft beers are on offer from Darling Breweries and gin on tap from Beefeaters Gin. There is such a lovely vibe at the hotel with people scattered all over either relaxing in the lounge in front of the fireplace or socialising on the terrace out back.

Riders enjoying a relaxing evening by the fire before kicking off Day 1 of the 2019 Great Zuurberg Trek.

Only the best in the goodie bag. A truly boutique event gives riders some quality merchandise.

We are entertained by Greg Ritz and Gerald de Kock on the start line. They are the MC’s and sure keep everyone entertained with all their banter. There are plenty of pro riders and other well-known sports personalities on the start line and it was great to see Robyn de Groot back again after being out of action for a couple of months.

Greg Ritz and Gerald de Kock entertaining the riders.

We traverse the beautiful Zuurberg pass, once used by the Voortrekkers with their ox wagons. The views go on forever and on a clear day you can see Bird Island just off the Port Elizabeth coast line and even the main beachfront of Port Elizabeth. To your right you are spoilt with views over the Karoo. Once at the top riders drop down into the valley below and what an experience! One minute you’re surrounded by Karoo vegetation and the next you find yourself in Knysna forest-like scenery deep in the valley. White knuckle moments are experienced riding down very steep, downhill single-track and right on the edge of the carved-out hills. We get to ride through Intsomi Reserve, the Sundays River Valley with its beautiful orange orchards, Addo Elephant Back Safaris and Hayterdale trails. You might just be lucky enough to spot an elephant or two!

Day 1 and 2 are mostly on gravel roads and jeep track and here and there you are thrown down amazing single-track with names such as “White knuckle downhill”, “7 Dwarves drop” and “Gowars Gauntlet”. You sure are going to end up with sore hands, but a big smile!

Day 3 will blow you away. 50km consisting of about 70-80% single-track. This year we had a new section of track built specifically for the event with a bridge erected over the pass. There are so many sections where you ride right on the edge and if you manage to take a VERY quick glimpse to the side, you are spoilt with magnificent views over the Sunday’s River Valley far below. Be sure to hang on to those handlebars and keep that smile on your face as there are endless steep roll-downs. It feels as though you are on a rollercoaster ride and I found myself shouting “woohoo” out loud a couple of times!

There are entry packages for every pocket. We chose the Bronze entry option and took our own tent and set up camp at Hayterdale trails, 9 km from the Zuurberg Inn Hotel. We had to sort out our own breakfast and supper. Lunch was served at the hotel after the race and on the last day you are treated to the hotel’s full Sunday carvery. Even more reason to speed up on the last 9km Zuurberg pass climb back to the finish.

I recommend this race to anyone and everyone and hope to be back again!

This race is a special one on the racing calendar and appeals to both pro's and amateurs alike. The great hospitality and Eastern Cape trails, ensure you have an amazing 3 days on and off the bike.

Below are the price options for the 2020 race and with lots of options you are sure to find something that suits your comfort levels and your budget. Be sure to enter once the race entries open on 10 June 2019.

Visit the website for more information:​

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