What our riders have to say....
Don’t take our word for it. Here are some lekker thoughts from those who rode in 2023…
“Hvis du skal køre et mtb løb, er det dette løb her. Intet andet kombinerer som Go2Berg et smukt land, fantastiske trails med rytter sammenhold og en følelse af at komme tæt på alndets befolkning. Go2Berghar været en oplevelse vi aldrig glemmer.”
“If you have to do a mtb race, this is the race. Nothing else combines a beautiful country, fantastic trails with rider unity and a feeling of getting close to the people of the countryside like Go2Berg. Go2Berg has been an experience we will never forget.”
As we arrived at the festive race village around midday, our eyes feasted upon the most lavish race village I’ve ever seen. The music pumping and the kids cheering, the community and event organisers have already exceeded expectations.
The prologue happened and then the first evening of banter between Lee, Craig and Gary was underway. What a treat, seriously, I gave up a massage in the coming days just so I didn’t miss the banter of the race briefing!
And have I mentioned the food yet? Every day seemed to exceed the day before but they were probably all equally amazing and you know they were all made with love. All the local communities and schools really worked together to create such a special village every day. The effort they put in did not go unnoticed by anyone.
Mt Paul didn’t disappoint. The beautiful gradual climb followed by a fast flow 5km descent was just sensational! We let go of the brakes and flew down that one! The welcome party (as every day had been) hosted by Harrismith school at Sterkfontein dam was once again beyond expectations.
The climb up onto the escarpment and along the Great Wall my China was made all the more exhilarating with the howling winds that threatened to blow us over the sheer cliff to the vultures! It was absolutely breathtaking and the descent down the Drakensburg and into Spionkop.
As an international rider and having done other stage races (in India and East Timor), I have to say that the organisation and the extras that we received here were on another level! The Seattle coffee team that worked so hard to caffeinate us and we’re always so happy, the pig rig for our much needed liquid gold, the Physio and massage, the bike washing, the mechanics, the couriers … and that’s just some of the awesome people and extras!!
We were also lucky enough to ride past a tower of giraffes who were feasting on trees along the ridge line before attacking the 50 switchback climb and the epic 10km finishing descent on day 5. What a day!
We finished at Champagne Sports Resort, and what a welcome finish with the crowd cheering and the kids running to our aid with drinks and to take our bikes off to wash. Beers and burgers and laughter and stories were shared. The banter and the friends made in this week were what brought this race together for us. To experience this challenge with other likeminded crazy people was the icing on the cake.
So, the first go2berg and our first race in South Africa. It far exceeded my expectations! A special thanks to Craig who we seemed to always ride past or bump into at water stations, yelling Aussie Aussie Aussie and feeding us the local treats. Also Gary, both of you two and the banter with Lee kept us laughing.
Joberg2c became my default “destination race” of choice after having completed the first 6 Cape Epics. The then organizers of the Cape based race decided, to change their race format to a more localized model. This did not resonate well with me. The appeal to “Ride the beloved country” ticked all the boxes regarding a physical and mental challenge. Thus, my love affair with Joberg2c started with the approval of my wife. The fact that it took 3 months of intense preparation training did not put me off in the least and it became part of my annual lifestyle. For me it was the start of my “Journey to the Coast”, getting my body, mind and bike synchronized for 9 days of biking heaven- especially the close to 300km’s of single track!
The people, places, and good and bad memories[mechanicals] somehow made all the sacrifices worthwhile. Being part of a mindset where all communities along the route were an integral part of the success of the race was fantastic. The schools, route builders, beer brewers, sponsors, medical and safety people all had their role to play for the successful outcome of our journey to the sea. Many communities and schools regarded our annual pilgrimage as their only source of external funding for the year. Being associated with the race for 9 out of the 11 years has made me personally extremely proud. It got to a point where I could ride 99% of the race without a GPS as every part of the route was etched in my memory!
Imagine my total despair when it was decided by the 3 Farmers that Joberg2c had run its course! I was devastated. I had to find another “multi day fix”. Soon I was in preparation mode for another Cape based multi-day event but after 2 months of preparations I was informed that the race format had been changed to a ride……..what now? By this time Wappo and Gary Green had launched the inaugural Go2berg. This was territory with which I was familiar with! Of course, I signed up, and got back into the old routines and mindset. As with the early days of Joberg2c the first “expeditionary race” had a few rough edges during the first 2 days as the route was being plotted and tested.
In true Wappo and Gary style, and if the success of Joberg2c is anything to go by, expect the 2nd edition of Go2Berg to be race and ride ready in September 2024. Expect tough challenging stages [you must train for this race], exceptional single tracks and endless vista views. Add great hospitality with a dash of Wappo and Farmer Gary the team behind the scenes who run the show and you have a winner.
I have paid my dues and will be lining up for the next edition in 2024 for what I believe, will become the iconic 6.5 Day Solo Racing experience in South Africa.”
This inaugural event makes the journey off road from just south of Johannesburg to the Drakensberg mountains with 530km of gravel and single track and 8954m of climbing along the way. (Everest is 8849m!)
I line up along with the other 216 competitors; just 17% international riders and only 3 from the UK. Most are South African and riding in the solo category but there are teams of 2 and there are even 29 over 60’s, myself included. The youngest is 18 and the oldest a remarkably spritely 76 year old.
What lies ahead is 6 days of off road tracks en route from Frankfort to the Champagne resort in the heart of the Drakensberg mountains. It is winter and the tracks are dry and free from that British clogging mud. We are in for a treat of especially prepared tracks through private farmland and conservation areas with the occasional wild beast thrown into the mix.
The scenery as we headed away from Joberg became more spectacular by the day. Fields of maize crops on the high plateaus gave way to dramatic Kopje ( South African for hill) under expansive African skies. The mornings started out below freezing with frost on our saddles but gave way to crystal clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 20’s – not bad for winter in the Southern hemisphere. By the first feed station we were ready to discard layers of clothing. Talking of feed stations, these were the M&S of feed stations manned by cheery local school parents and kids and stocked with anything from delicious BBQ’d local sausage to home made pancakes. Some of the back markers were known to linger a tad too long and had to be ushered on. At one such feed station my bike was pressure washed and even my grimy sun glasses polished, all before I could hoover down my second banana and a glass of coke.
The days were long, between 90 and 120 kms which doesn’t sound much for a road cyclist, but add in undulating terrain, big climbs up single track, strong dry head winds on a heavy mountain bike and you can probably double the equivalent road biking outing. Burning well over 8000 calories a day I was eating like a horse.
At the end of each day, your bike was whisked away from you by some enthusiastic youth to be pressure washed to a shiny new state and, if required fully serviced by a local mechanic all for the price of a designer coffee and croissant in the UK. (the british pound goes a very long way in South Africa).
Day 4 and 5 we stayed in En’semi village on the banks of the Tugela River, a tented camp resembling more of a safari lodge than a boot camp for lycra enthusiasts. We even had sheets and proper beds in our tents!
All the trails were specially built for the event and local farmers were paid by the kilometre to build and brush cut the track. The ride turned out to be a rollercoaster through stunning African bush involving river crossings, fast descents down a dried river canyon where some gaps in the rock were only just wide enough for your handlebars, a 53 hairpin single dirt track climb known at the Boer route up the side of the Spion Kop mountain ( the scene of a slaughter of British troops by the Boers in 1900) followed by a helter skelter drop.
The race organiser Craig Wapnick (who sounded Afrikaans but is in fact from Derbyshire) had a tendency to pop up in his Nissan truck at the most remote and unlikely spots and shout helpful advice, At one point on dropping steeply into a river crossing (depth unknown) followed by a near vertical 6ft wet mud wall on the far bank he shouted “Don’t hesitate!” Helpful. Not the moment to fall off in front of the cameras.
When Ian and myself paid over our entrance fees to the South African organisers months before, we were sceptical as to whether we were ever going to see anything for it. We needn’t have worried, the organisers were a well oiled team who ran the show with military precision. There were vans serving all-day free cappuccinos, a pop up chilled bear lorry, hot showers and loos, dozens of mechanics and physiotherapists to keep our bikes and bodies in shape, a massive circus type mess tent where we ate and where we would be given a nightly race briefing of the following day.
The evening briefings had turned into an excuse for some serious banter with newly acquired buddies from Australia, South Africa and Switzerland as we shared the trials and tribulations of each day. Drone videos and action photos were reviewed revealing birds-eye views and the true magnificence of the scenery through which we had just ridden. The team of presenters Lee (compare) Craig (race organiser) and Gary (trail builder) were more of a comedy trio in their delivery.
We finished the event, cycling down into the seat of luxury courtesy of the event sponsors. It was just like being on honeymoon, sadly without the trouble and strife, but instead with 216 newly found mates and with saddle sores you just don’t want to know about. We partied into the wee hours (which meant being in bed by 11pm).
Reflecting on our trip on the 6 hour bus shuttle back to Joburg we discussed the best bits. Was it the rugged beauty of the wide open landscapes of the Kopjes under the extensive African skies? No we concluded, it was the cameraderie of completing an epic ride with like-minded people bundled together in pain. Let’s face it – Africa gets under your skin. This is not the event for the faint hearted and not to be attempted without some serious training but to my 3 boys I say “ You have got to do this!”