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October 21, 2015

The Unnamed Stage Race

Piket Bo-Berg

Year after year that I’ve driven up the N7, on my way to a camping trip or some other adventure on the bike, the only reason to ever stop at Piketberg was maybe at the Spur to fill our adventure sapped stomachs, or the garage to top up the fuel tank. With Piketberg’s main industry being wheat farming, stopping off was never really a consideration of mine, or yours I’m pretty sure.

Over the past months however, there have been murmurings and rumours of something more to my interests up in the mountains, the area they call the “Bo-Berg”. Unlike the valley below, this area is much more lush, cooler in climate and much more undulating. The rumours of never ending, technical trails almost seemed too good to be true.  When my young friend Andrew invited me to come camping on a “test ride” weekend he had been invited to, I sceptically accepted the opportunity.

As it turns out, there were about 40 other riders who had made the journey out for the weekend, and the farm manager Rickus Jooste, who is responsible for the trails was eager to welcome us to the camp-site they had set up for us at the farm under the tall oak trees that surrounded the dam. The relaxed atmosphere set the scene for the rest of the weekend as my anticipation of what lay ahead started to grow. I was hearing good things, but my sceptical mind kept on putting it aside as hype.

The next morning riders cheerfully assembled themselves in a semi-orderly fashion. What lay ahead of us was 45km with 1100m of climbing. After a short gravel road stint we hit a short uphill singletrack section which separated the riders somewhat, with Andrew and I finding ourselves in the front, we set about navigating our way through section after section of trail that presented itself.

The first section of singletrack left me with a happy feeling inside. The second with a wry smile on my face. By the 3rd section, and you can ask Andrew, I was screaming like a wooo girl. I totally didn’t see that coming!

Piket Bo-Berg

As a pro rider I get to ride my bike all over the country, and sometimes the world. A lot of events these days boast big amounts of singltrack, but the reality is that it’s mostly smooth and manicured, and largely unchallenging. Section after section we were being presented with loose, rocky, tightly twisting trails that required you to pick good lines and control your bike. This is something I have been hugely deprived of this year.

Over the past months Rickus and his team have been really hard at work adding new sections of trail. The newest addition being the bermed forest, which boasted about 20 berms, a 50m plank ride, followed by a suspension bridge. Andrew and I were so stoked that we had to go back and ride it again!

Piket Bo-Berg

Piket Bo-Berg

And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it did. We hit a long section of trail which took us off the mountain down a gulley. A 5km piece of trail that included high speed sections, tight bermed corners, steep technical sections, which also boasted incredible views. It is fair to say that my mind was blown!

Piket Bo-Berg

I could tell you about every piece of trail, but the reality is that we would be here all day. What you do need to know is that by the end of the 46km, only 3km of that was jeep track. They were definitely right in saying that if you find yourself on a jeep track for more that 1km, you’re probably lost.

After a huge communal braai that evening, as well as an hilarious fines meeting for stupid things done on the trail. Day 2 awaited the riders.

Amazingly, in the 45km we covered on that second day, we were never further that 4km as the crow flies from the campsite. The trails that day were much faster, but featured more tightly twisting sections that doubled back on itself. The result was that it felt like a cross country race! Check out the link, it looks like a spiders web.

With spectacular views over the valley that extended even as far as Table Mountain, we were treated to trails that took us right between tight rock formations, steep bermed sections along the edge of the mountain, as well as some fast high speed stretches that left your brakes shrieking as you tried your best to slow down for the bermed corner at the bottom.

Piket Bo-Berg

With less climbing and faster singltrack, the slightly shorter riding day ended in a sprint finish between Andrew and I, with youth narrowly trumping experience. There were high fives, tall stories and much laughter after riding what were certainly the most exhilarating trails I have ridden in a long time. Packing up and heading back to Cape Town gave us some mixed feelings, but we both knew we’d be back some time.

What you’ll be happy to know is that this whole weekend served as a trial ride for an event that’s going to be put on next year. The farm owners are busy receiving feedback and bouncing ideas off all the riders that attended in order to put on the ultimate trail experience. Because it is all on private land, these trails are unfortunately by invite only, so when the race launches, I would highly recommend getting that entry sorted!

Until next time,

Keep it Rubber Side Down.

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