The Karoo 2 Coast MTB Challenge is The Argus Cycle Tour of mountain biking: an epic day on the bike with spectacular scenery and a breathtaking mountain pass!
We aimed to arrive a little earlier than we did for 2012 so that we could scout around Uniondale and then get registration done with so that we would be settled in before dark and the Karoo cold!
Everything is centered around the Uniondale show grounds. Registration was well organised and efficient.
All cyclists get a pasta dinner. There is no option to buy a meal for seconds, but fortunately a kind lady in the queue offered Leanne a ticket. It would not have been a disaster as there was plenty of delicious food available. We had pancakes for dessert.
Last year we had an unpleasant experience over-nighting in the tent option, so Leanne was quick to explore alternatives when I started planning for this year. She booked us in to sleep in one of the stables on the show grounds. Whilst we battled to get confirmation of our booking, once we arrived everything seemed pretty organised and the night was a novel and comfortable experience!
We were woken way to early race day morning by an extremely inconsiderate male who insisted upon speaking at the top of his voice for more than 30 minutes of prime sleeping time. He was also the same guy keeping us up till late the night before.
The Karoo mornings sure are fresh: I woke up the next morning to find my saddle was coated with ice!
The start of the race is superbly organised with starting chutes well signposted and officials on hand to direct cyclists. The route starts with a few kilometers on tar as the cyclists sweep around Uniondale in an anti-clockwise direction before hitting the dirt streets and heading past the houses and up into the mountains. The whole town comes out to watch the event, with many locals walking far up the route to cheer cyclists up the first long climb.
The hill that is the Wapad section was congested as expected but people seemed to be in a far better mood than last year and things seemed a lot smoother.
The little detour under the road at Avontuur which had been announced a few weeks earlier (too some grumblings and predictions of disaster) was successful. This was done to allow a free flow of cars as apparently last year seconds had difficulty in getting past.
There is little more I can say to adequately describe the rest of the day. The weather was perfect, people were friendly, refreshment tables were plenty, the uphills were long and tiring, the downhills never-ending and exhilarating.
The tension on my rear derailleur failed with about 30km to go so I was really careful with my gear changes and to not put too much strain on my drive chain.
I finished far more comfortably than last year in a time of 05:35:28 which is a reasonable improvement on 2012’s 06:03:40. All-in-all a fabulous day out as a result of lessons learnt from last year’s event.
I hit the stop button on my Garmin instead of the Lap button, but here is the Course (from last year’s Garmin track):