Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sani2C Trail 2012 - my story

So my mountain biking goal has been achieved, I have managed to complete the illustrious Sani to Sea mountain bike race.My senses have had a serious overload over the 3 magnificent days that I tested my body and rode 260kms from Underberg in the Drakensberg Mountains to Scottbourough by the sea in beautiful South Africa. 

This is a team event and you have to ride the whole time with a partner, I was very fortunate to do this with my good mate Greg Heunis and our months of training paid off. We also had the privilege of sharing this magnificent event with our new riding mates Adam and Mark and these guys really helped the 'old men' out. Yes, the event was very hard, as there were hills on serious steroids (not like the flat lands of Benoni that we are used to). It was a real tester for both of us and our bodies took strain, but we went with the right mindset that we would enjoy no matter what and took our time to at least appreciate the spectacular scenery.

Day 1 was a 80km ride from Underberg to Mackenzie Farm and after having no sleep, being fumed out by the trucks outside our (school room) sleeping quarters at 04:00 in the morning and freezing temperatures, we were not feeling too strong for the start of our journey. Adam and Mark started 20 minutes behind us (batched starts) and passed us a few kms before the end of the day's route. The route was a bit muddy and slippery in places but was otherwise spectacular. My phobia of riding over bridges was finally put to the test, as we had to ride over a long floating bridge over a dam (this had me waking up nights in a cold sweat). I really thought that I was going to fall in and swim and ride the remaining 50km in wet clothes, but it came and I conquered it with no problem - what an awesome personal achievement (never mind the 30 or so other bridges they had in the rest of the race).
Start of Day 1
What fun riding the floating bridge over the dam...

Sheer joy at riding over this hoodo...

Tented camp at the end of Day1
Adam showing us how bridges should be ridden

Day 2 This 100km ride with over 2000m ascent will be etched in my mind forever - the first 40km, is the best riding one could ever imagine, going down into the Umkomaas Valley and then the hardest 60km ride out the valley to the Day 2 rest camp.But wow, it was worth every minute of the almost 8 hours that we spent out there....the photos don't really do the views any justice.
Beautiful Umkomaas Valley
Yes those are clouds down there....we were really high and we rode all the way down to the bottom.
Hard sublime tracks all the way down...

Bit of congestion before Heaven or Hell track..
So there was loads to eat at the water points...

Route profile for Day 2 - that is a lot of climbing after 40km
Adam tearing up the Umkomaas valley decent track
 The long hill to the 'Nandos' water point, my legs will remember for ages, it was so nice to get off the bike and have a Nandos burger and relax in the shade for 20 minutes or so until my body could continue and tackle the next 'Push of a Climb' hill...
Our cozy tent in the macadamia tree orchard...
Day 3 - 75km at least this day was shorter and faster than the previous day so our bodies could recover and we could enjoy the last day of this incredible journey. There was a lot of fast downhill mixed with some really testing climbs. The scenery was once again out of this world...
So much single track you just couldn't help but smile all the time....
View of the sugar cane hills we climbed

Vernon Crookes climb
At the top of Heart Rate Hill
Really happy tired boys at the finish line...
Mark and Adam at the finish
 What a fantastic experience, I definitely want to do this one again, it was hard but incredible. We were not racing but rather enjoying the ride as much as we could, nevertheless a long time in the saddle 17 hours 21 minutes over 3 days (but at least we beat over 400 people). After the race Greg, Mark, Adam and I were fortunate enough to stay with Greg's parents for the evening and be fed some fantastic food that I will also remember for years to come. Thank you Mr and Mrs Heunis for your hospitality it really is much appreciated. We went down to the beach and had a nice swim in the sea followed by a few well earned beers.

Tradional swim in the sea after the race...


  1. Hello Richard, well done!!! what an epic race, that floating bridge on the water looks very scary! You have some beautiful scenery in SA, it must be awesome to visit it on a mountain bike.
    My husband is also called Richard and is a mountain bike instructor here in the french alps, he's going to love looking at your blog. Hope you are enjoying some well earned rest.

    1. Thank you Emma for your comment, yes it was the best 3 days of my life, South Africa really is a beautiful country.

  2. Seems this was an awesome journey... I take my hat off to you, this is a great accomplishment Richard.

    1. Thanks Pierre - best you get training and you can do this next year ;)

  3. Kudos for achieving your goal and completing the Sani to Sea mountain bike race! And you're right, as long as you have the right mindset, you can get to enjoy cycling and the breathtaking scenery you can encounter on the tracks. :)

  4. This post helped me in my prep for Sani2C this year. Thanks for publishing!


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