N3TC Royal Drakensberg MTB Challenge 2 & 3 June 2012

Note! this was the 2012 race report. Please visit our new website for the current race information:

www.royaldrakmtb.co.za

The 2012 Royal Drakensberg MTB Challenge weekend in the Drakensberg was once again a huge success. Accommodation in the Drakensberg was provided by the various options in the Northern Drakensberg area. The program offered a Drakensberg weekend of fun for the whole family and some proper mountain biking for the die hards! The weather was perfect and the mountains were spectacular. We aim to put the mountain back into mountain biking!! The majority of riders and participants were well looked after by the various types of accommodation in the Drakensberg.

This Drakensberg event was hosted by All Out Adventures in the heart of the Drakensberg Mountains. Saturday’s family day saw a crowd of kids testing their skills in the Mountain Bike Gymkhana, with the Sticky Bun race being hotly contested by kids of all ages. Well done to the staff of Royal Drakensberg Primary school who tirelessly ran behind the little ones who hadn’t quite mastered the pedaling yet! The afternoon Family Ride to the river for tea and scones provided a wonderful opportunity for parents to ride with their kids and coach them on the specially prepared extra wide single track. Spectators and little ones could join in the tea party by way of a short hiking trail. A big thanks to the Cavern Drakensberg Resort and Spa for hosting the tea. Another step up for accommodation in the Drakensberg.

Saturday’s 15km Drakensberg night ride and dinner were also a huge hit. The stunning weather held and the riders departed just as the sun was setting. Everybody navigated the river crossing without incident this year, and nobody bailed at the half way point! The dinner was delicious and it was great to have so many spectators join in. Thank you to Montusi Lodge for catering – the home made pastries for dessert were especially well received by the hungry cyclists! This is the type of service one comes to accept from accommodation in the Drakensberg.

Sunday dawned clear and beautiful with a decided air of expectation – with the first riders showing up to register at 6:00am! Well rested from their stay in the various accommodation in the Drakensberg. By 7:00 the venue was buzzing with everybody enjoying the breakfast rolls, cappuccinos and awesome goodie bags. The first 150 entrants also got a long sleeve race t-shirt. It was wonderful to see so many families enjoying the time together in the Drakensberg area.

The first race – the 15km trail run kicked off at 8:00. The 15km route turned decidedly longer due to a misplaced danger tape barrier causing some of the runners to do an extra loop and resulting in a fair amount of confusion. Fortunately the Drakensberg scenery was so beautiful and the weather so lovely, that the runners enjoyed themselves despite the extra kilometers. Happily the 6km Fun Run was less eventful, and the runners all found their way down and out of the Gorge without any problems.

The Drakensberg Mountain bike races kicked off at 9:00, with the 45km Classic. There was a fast start to the race but the 7km category 2 climb soon spread out the field quite nicely! This is a tough event – there is no respite, even the down hills are demanding! Highlights included the 5km Nook Road, Run Way and Secret Pass descent, and the infamous Dutoits Down Hill . Riders also blew their minds over the Trilby Trail, where the single track winds over the top of the Drakensberg mountains crossing no fewer than 15 wooden bridges. The first man home was Craig Russell White in a time of 2:25:00 followed closely by James Leslie in 2:27:43. The first lady was Nicky Green in a time of 2:56:45. Feedback from the riders was awesome, with the winning lady saying this was the best single day event she had done! It was fantastic to see so many local riders from our neighbouring towns.

The 19km Intermediate was well subscribed and it was great to see the young riders doing so well. 3 of the top 5 finishers were under 18 years old. The route, which passed some of our beautiful accommodation in the Drakensberg, offered lovely fast single track, great descents and a couple of tricky climbs. The highlight for many of the riders was the Waterfall Challenge – a ride through the water down a steep river cascade. The slog out of the gorge tested the riders, but the winners finish times were impressive with a sprint for the finish between the first man Marinus van Sandwyk in a time of 1:00:17 and Rob Nutt in a time of 1:00:18. The first boy (12yrs & under category) Torin Mecklenborg finished in 1:08:03 and first lady, Robyn Leslie made it home in a time of 1:16:23.

The 10km Cavern Drakensberg Resort and Spa Fun Ride is always a highlight of our event. It’s so great to see so many little people out there ready challenge themselves. The route offered lots of extra wide single track, great for first time racers, of which there were a fair number. The water table on this route is always a hit, and a big thank you to The Cavern Resort & Spa for making it so awesome! It’s hard work riding in the Drakensberg and once again thanks to all the accommodation in the Drakensberg for their assistance.

The first boy home, Mandlenkosi Tshabalala, flew over the line in less than half an hour, and informed us with a huge smile, that next year he would be doing the 19km race. The first girl home was Olivia Bedingham (8 yrs) from The Cavern Resort & Spa, who was positively beaming. We are so proud of these young riders and feel so privileged when we can be part of inspiring young people to achieve more.

We are so grateful to all our Drakensberg sponsors and everyone who worked tirelessly to make the event work. The beneficiary, Royal Drakensberg Primary School, plays such an important role in our Drakensberg community, so thank you all for your support. We look forward to next year, which will have the same great family vibe, but even more extreme Drakensberg Mountain biking for those of you who are up to it. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience your sport and stay at accommodation in the Drakensberg. We will keep you informed….! And remember: We are the ones who put the mountain back into mountain biking!!

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