Participants in this year’s Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race, which gets underway from Karan Beef near Heidelberg on the outskirts of Johannesburg on April 22, can expect a route that is designed to provide the best rider experience yet. However, despite several innovations to the route of the nine-day journey across South Africa, organiser Craig Wapnick said riders would still be tested to their limit. “It is still tough to ride 900km, but we’re confident we’ve ticked as many boxes as possible to provide the field with a good riding experience.”
Wapnick said the joBerg2c was possibly the best way for fit, happy mountain bikers from all over the world to experience the country. “Essentially the route is like taking a trip from the bustling heart of the country’s economy to a more laid-back environment down on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. “But instead of taking the dual carriage-way N3, you climb on your bike and pedal your way down a path less travelled.” He described the route as “more of a trail than only single-track” and a truly special way of seeing South Africa if you are fit enough to enjoy the journey. Given the diversity and different personality of each stage, Wapnick believed the route was king and was especially looking forward to the all-new day six. “I believe it will be a big one because it is new and because we have hyped it up.” He said it included Harrison’s Pass with its 32 switchbacks. “We like to improve and make changes when we feel we need to,” said Wapnick. “We just felt last year’s day six had too much road. “Now it has proper variation. We think it is better, but let the riders be our judge.”
Stage four has been shortened by 20km with riders finishing at the new village at Emseni, which also hosts Berg and Bush. “With two back-to-back mammoth days, we felt the day was slightly compromised by the toil of the last bit into Winterton. Now we have day three over 110km and day four over 93km, which makes a huge difference.” Wapnick said day five would be another big one, but their plan was to make the first 20km a neutral zone and to regroup in Winterton for the official start. Unique features of the route are that it crosses four provinces – Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State – and embraces the farming community. “Getting it right meant years of meeting farmers and learning to drink brandy and coke after a long day,” said Wapnick. “For instance, on the dry run on day two we opened or climbed over 44 gates.”
A key aspect of the joBerg2c is the support it provides to the local communities, who use the event as a fundraiser by providing a variety of services at each of the eight race villages. The event finishes on the main beach at Scottburgh on April 30.