The picturesque Free State countryside village of Clarens is set to welcome the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships, from 16-17 April. The endurance competition is targeted at the Elite Men (Ultra Marathon) Elite Women (Marathon) and Junior, Youth Men and Women categories (Half Marathon).
The exquisite Maluti and Rooiberg Mountains, which form part of the Drakensberg mountain range along the South African and Lesotho border, boast some of the most naturally unique rock formations and outcrops that have been weathered away over centuries in the unspoilt terrain.
Littered with river crossings, rock pools and trails that are seemingly etched out of the rock, the trails meander through grasslands and “gives the participants the feeling that they are riding in the shadow of these majestic giants. Lots of fauna and flora can be seen and it’s great to experience places in our country where the beauty of nature remains untouched,” says Advendurance event organiser, Wessel van der Walt.
The term “slick rock” is well known amongst purist mountain bikers and refers to sandstone, mudstone, basalt and volcanic stone rock formations. Ancient desert dunes have hardened over hundreds of years to form the sandstone. “This rock has a very smooth appearance and is quite curvy in it’s shape. Massive hills and outcrops have these smooth large rock plates. This is vey similar to rock formations in the Utah desert where the term “slick rock” was derived from,” said Van Der Walt.
He went on to explain the beauty of this rock: “Although called “slick rock”, it doesn’t mean the actual rock is slick.” On the contrary, the texture is very grippy, which is why mountain bikers love it.
“You’ll be amazed at the steep inclines you’re able to ride. The slickness is actually the smoothness and flowing lines are created along the seemingly unending rock plates. It’s really special to be able to ride on this type of surface, or even race on it, as most of it is found on private land and in nature reserves.”
According to Van Der Walt, the race route this year has been condensed into a smaller area to allow for more spectator points. “The Ultra Marathon distance will come very close to the finish before heading out onto their second loop of about 36km. We are planning to have about five spectator points on route,” he says.
Van Der Walt refers to Clarens as a 112 kilometre cross-country course and cautions the riders to pace themselves and to plan their attack.
To encapsulate the essence of mountain bike marathon racing, Van der Walt adds: “Cross-country Marathons have climbs that are as long as, or up to three times as long, as a whole cross-country course. Here, the obstacle is surviving the distance, being self sufficient, and using team tactics also usually plays a big role. Many of the cross-country marathons suit climbers having a better power to body weight ratio, but Clarens is always won by an all-rounder.
Entries for the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships, are open. Elite, Junior and Youth categories can enter online here: https://www.saseeding.org/Participants/Entry?event_id=a4bef1cd-b19f-11e5-907e-08002773d9e3.
Those riders competing on the 2016 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series can enter here: https://www.saseeding.org/Participants/Entry?event_id=a4bef26d-b19f-11e5-907e-08002773d9e3
For more information, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/