Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bridgestone Route 66

Bridgestone Route 66, 3Day MTB Race, Johannesburg

If you searching for a three-day mountain bike stage race in and around Jozi, look no further than the Bridgestone Route 66 event. Put on by The Leverage Corporation, with the backing of Bridgestone and Kathea, the event is the perfect race if you looking at starting your stage racing career or if you a seasoned pro, the route has it all. I wasn’t expecting much when FedGroup-Itec added this event to our calendar, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the route that they had set out for the riders and the great organization. The other huge draw card to what I believe is the only stage event in Jozi, is the fact that every stage starts within an hours drive from Jozi, so you can do the event and remain in the comfort of your own home, or guest lodge/hotel.

Day 1, Lanseria-Van Gaalens, 80km, 1300m
We were warned that this stage was the most technical stage, and I had no idea what to expect. The race incorporates teams of two, and also solo riders. Neil and I had teamed up for this event as part of our preparation going forward. We had decided to make this part of a good three-day hard block of training, so we were always going to race it hard. Take nothing away from the rest of the field, but we soon found ourselves racing ahead of the chasing pack, but pushed each other hard.
The trails were super technical, very rocky and loose and it was very hard to find a rhythm with all the singletrack. I would have to guess as much as 75% of the stage was tight and twisting trails, which made for a physically tough stage.
I won’t lie when I say I was happy to arrive at Van Gaalens Cheese Farm, to a good lunch and refreshments with the organizers and sponsors.
Neil and I won the stage, whilst Bridgette had a great ride to finish second behind a flying national champ, Robyn deGroot.

Day 2, Van Gaalens-Maropeng, 70km, 1250m
Day 2 was the tougher of the three days, and as you can work out, from Van Gaalens to Maropeng, the route would always mean you would be going ‘up’ to the finish. So a tough route, combined with hot temperatures, would take its toll on all riders, even us professionals!
I have to say though that the route was amazing, and the many times I’ve raced along the tar roads in this area, the trails that they had found and cut were really fantastic. The group stayed together for the first 15km, which was flat and fast, but once we started hitting the rocky climbs, it was only the Exxaro Academy team who would follow our pace. Around halfway, heading past the Tracking station, it started getting really tough, and Neil and I used our Superfly full suspensions here to good use and rode our pace and pushed on. The final climbs even caught us a little off guard and again we were hugely relieved when we arrived at Maropeng to another welcome sight of refreshments and food. 
Positions stayed more or less the same, whilst we rode back to Kloofzicht Lodge where we would be finishing the final stage the following day.

Day 3, Maropeng-Kloofzicht, 63km, 800m
The final day, the fast and flowing day, took us on a scenic loop around The Cradle of Humankind, with amazing trails and some great scenery if you had time to look around.
Again we were finishing off a good three-day block of training, so we pushed hard for the stage. Andrew Mclean managed to follow our pace till around 40km, where I think he had had enough of that, and again Neil and pushed on alone.
The organizers had set up a brilliant finish at the five star lodge, Kloofzicht, where they had an amazing lunch on the grass around the dam, and it would turn into a fantastic family day to welcome the entire race home from a great three days riding.
Overall positions remained the same, whilst Bridgette held onto her second place for the race.

Again thanks to everyone for making this a fantastic weekend and definitely a stage race I would recommend! 

Next race, my first goal race for the season, and a ‘happy hunting’ ground for me, Sabie. Maybe it’s the climate, maybe the climbs, or maybe the fact the Mr. African (Mannie Heymans) taught me how to race there, none the less its time to make some music for the team.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st FedGroup-Itec (Macdonald/Evans)
2nd Specialized (Porteous/Cooke)

3rd Exxaro 1 (Mahlangu/Maseko

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