Now in its fourth year, this popular event is not just challenging fun, it also promotes awareness and raises funds for conservation. The main beneficiaries are the Renosterveld, several anti-Rhino poaching initiatives, followed by the improvement of the lives of communities along the route.
Text & photos by Marna Cilliers
On 26 September 2014 approximately 415 determined and motivated cyclists put foot to pedal for a three day challenging stage race characterized by taking the cyclist through the most scenic Renosterveld of the Western Cape. Cyclists entered in one of two categories the “Black Rhino” or the “White Rhino”, the latter being shorter distances of approximately 65 km per day as opposed to around 90 km per day.
After a festive pasta evening at the Langebaan Country Estate the evening before the start of the race, spirits were running high and the vibe among family and supporters was electrifying . After a dramatic start with a rider donning a rhino horn and cycling bareback for the duration of the race to huge amusement of the crowd, cyclists passed over the golf course, each dropping a golf ball on the fairway for an “early birdie challenge” participating in a draw from a barrel, all adding to the fun start to the event.
The leaders of the pack soon made their way through the West Coast National Park.Special permission from SANParks allowed fabulous vistas to many areas of the park which are out of bounds to the general public. The route followed jeep tracks and trails criss-crossing the colourful and diverse fynbos along Langebaan Lagoon. A water point at Strandkombuis on Sixteen Mile Beach challenged cyclists to carry their bicycles down a steep staircase to proceed on the beach. Here a special “beach break spring” took cyclists towards Yzerfontein . Following rolling hills through Tierfontein , cyclists reported spotting of eland, zebra , kudu and gemsbok. A humming water point awaited them at !Kwa ttu at the 60-km mark. Leaving !Kwa ttu, adrenalin soared with a steep 15- m drop as a challenge for the experienced Black Rhino riders.
The hills along Rhebokskloof took riders to Alexanderfontein Wine and Olive Estate, then crossing a few mountains heading to the end of day one at the 18th hole at the Darling Country Club.
After parking bicycles at the wash bay it was time to enjoy a rejuvenating lunch and indulge in the luxurious massages by a large team of physiotherapists , a winning recipe used by many a cyclist to soothe aching muscles. A large tented camp on a rugby field was home for two nights and soon after lunch all went quiet as the weary cyclists dozed off to sleep to recuperate for the next day’s challenge.
With so many participants, I decided to focus on the participation and progress of few participating teams . “Team Makadas” with Neels Zeeman and Theo Scribante participated as a team for the
first time in preparation for the Cape Epic during March 2015. “I chose a stronger rider than myself as team mate, so I had to work extremely hard to keep up with Theo,” says Neels Zeeman. “The route was diverse and truly took us through the most beautiful areas. In terms of challenges there was no shortage the steep climbs every day forced one to pace carefully over the full duration of the race of three days. As a team we supported each other very well and I look forward to take this further to the Epic.” Zeeman jokingly added: “All I need to teach Scribante is to wash my riding clothes at night to be a real team mate but it seems as if this is not going to happen!”
Of the youngest riders to tackle a three-day stage race of approximately 200 kilometers were two teenagers, Wilbert von Ludwig (13) and Johan Kruger (14). The two youngsters from Durbanville have been friends since they were 4 years old. They trained together under guidance of their school teachers. Johan developed his fitness by training for biathlons . As team mates, von
on downhills and sprints. Throughout the race Iwatched this team supporting and encouraging each other, constantly displaying extreme sportsmanship at such a young age.
The oldest rider, Axel Unger (72), cycled with his wife Mariana Unger in a tough combination to beat. Unger has completed 24 Argus cycling tours and participated 15 times in the Double Century (over 200 km) races. They participated in the White Rhino Class and won the second day’s mixed couple category.
Day two got riders out of their sleeping bags early morning with the challenge of climbing no less than 1600 metres for the day. From Darling, a circle route took riders past Alexanderfontein, criss-crossing the Renosterveld and vineyards, past Ormond Wine Estate to Grootte Post Wine Estate. Here supporters had a prime opportunity to enjoy delectable wines and hospitality. The next water point was at Cloof Wine Estate home of the annual “Rocking the Daisies”. Here a delightful feast awaited weary riders after a very steep climb and treacherous downhill, which proved a real challenge for the more inexperienced. With a Spur burger in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, the breather allowed riders to pluck up the courage for the ride through the vineyards and along the railway line back to Darling at top speed.
Dinner was a lavish affair with delicious steaks being served with local wines during the day’s prize-giving ceremony. A notably tired and weary group of sportsmen and -women headed for their tents earlier than normal to rest up for the last stage the next morning.
Day 3 saw spectators stopping at Darling Cellars for their Chocoholic brand wines before continuing to Philadelphia and on to Botterberg and Havana Hills Wine Estate. With views over the entire peninsula, cyclist climbed an estimated 1300 m and then traversed to Hillcrest Quarry for the finish line.
Here a surprise awaited them as every cyclist had to cross the Trip Trans Bridge to the endpoint – a fine balancing act for tired legs after the third day’s racing. So it came as no surprise that many accomplished and strong cyclists got humbled by this experience! To the delight of the spectators, small mistakes led to dramatic splashes into the cool refreshing water on an otherwise hot spring day.
Proceeds of this race go to the Renosterveld Trust, who is actively involved in the conservation and rehabilitation of the Renosterveld as part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, one of South Africa’s 8 World Heritage Sites as declared by UNESCO.
For more information visit www.renosterveldmtb.co.za.