Going long at go2berg – Day 2

After a brisk and bright 83km day 1 of the Old Mutual go2berg yesterday, the 112km Reitz to Clarens day 2 teased the offer of a stiffer challenge for riders.

That tease emphatically came to life thanks to a demanding route that took the field on long, undulating district roads, across bumpy farm roads, and into a character-building headwind for exactly 111.5km of the 112km ride.

The wind had picked up overnight in Reitz (along with the temperature dropping), but the morning was idyllic, with a brilliant orange sunrise sky guiding chilly mountain bikers straight to the mobile coffee shop. When cortados are free, everyone is an aficionado.

The generous 8am start time allowed for the temperature to rise considerably, meaning riders sped out of the Showground fields and through the town of Reitz in comfortable conditions. By then, the sky was already a brilliant blue without a single cloud to blemish it. Despite a strong headwind, the first 37km whizzed by as the route made its way past cattle farms and mielie fields.

Whatever the locals feed their cows in the Eastern Free State, it must be good – every beast was salon-fresh, with fluffy, seemingly blow-dried hair on display to impress the city slickers. Horses dotted the landscape too, with fathers of young children absent-mindedly yet dutifully calling out “horses” every time a herd came into view. Some very fine donkeys made an appearance along the way, and not just those in the D batch.

At the first waterpoint, the Reitz East Farmers’ Association (their name is actually in Afrikaans, but I’ll spare you my translation efforts) had been asked to prepare the boerewors and other snacks. It was clear to this rider that they were worried about not having enough food for the mountain biking hordes, so they started braaing four days ago and are yet to stop. Suitably stuffed (from the food) it was then time to get stuffed by the wind.

From the 37km point to the second waterpoint at 70km, your considerate correspondent and another rider pulled along a bus of riders into the wind, with the changing scenery the worthwhile reward for all concerned. Moving closer to Clarens, the impressive sandstone rock formations of the region came into view, making for dramatic vistas along the way.

Waterpoint 2 came and went, with the final 42km of the day proving to be a solid test of perseverance and persistence. The wind barely abated, but now the main climbing of the day came into focus, with one particularly washed-out ascent proving to be an amusing diversion from the breeze. After a few more district road climbs and some more fabulous cows, waterpoint 3 at 99km appeared, where two festive ladies (hope they have the day off tomorrow) ensured riders took on the last 13km with renewed vigour.

The final, neutral, 5km took riders into the town of Clarens and onto the field of Clarens Primary School, where vetkoek and mince was served for a well-earned lunch and young learners cheered you home because let’s face it, anything is better than lessons on a bright, sunny day.

This inaugural go2berg is far from over – four days of riding remain – but this stage might go on to become a classic countryside go2berg day that tells riders, although here primarily for a tour, you still have to earn your deep-fried foods and ice-cold beers. With ever-changing scenery and a rewarding mountain biking challenge to be conquered, day 2 is a reminder that at go2berg you still have to go long.

By: @davidmoseley


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