The months of preparation are a thing of the past as the first of three events, the Trail, that make up the KAP sani2c, the world’s largest stage mountain bike race, gets underway at Glencairn Farm on Tuesday before the Adventure starts Wednesday and the Race on Thursday.
The event is split into three different rides that follow the same 260km route from the Southern Drakensberg to the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
It takes riders through some of the most beautiful scenery that KwaZulu-Natal has to offer with the farming belt forming part of the day one attractions, while the Queen Stage, day two, takes riders down into the breath-taking Umkomaas Valley to the overnight stop at Jolivet Farm in Highflats.
The final day to the coast incorporates the coastal bush of the Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve as well as the sugar cane farm roads of the South Coast region to the finish at Scottburgh Primary School via Scottburgh Main Beach.
Throughout the thirteen years that the KAP sani2c has taken place the event has continued to grow and reinvent itself to stay relevant to the large mountain biking community that South Africa has developed in the last decade.
While maintaining its core principles of being more than a ride, the sani2c has made a concerted effort to offer the riders as much in the way of comforts as possible and that is a reason for the event having grown into the biggest stage race in the world.
Not only is the environment and trails so appealing to riders, both experienced and new, but the race villages provide a comfortable area to relax and discuss the trials and tribulations of the day that has just passed.
The Iconic Climb, introduced last year, is the toughest climb of the race and takes riders out of the Umkomaas Valley and will be back to test riders once again in 2018 with the one tweak that will give weaker riders a lifeline.
This year there will be two routes up Iconic. One will be the much tougher, steeper route and then there will be a more gradual incline option.
The new trail will be known as the Hlegabafase Trail and the thinking is that the less taxing route shouldn’t take you any longer to complete so riders have to make an important decision when they reach the start of the incline midway through the second stage.
2018’s Trail kicks off the sani2c action on Tuesday with the Adventure following on Wednesday. These two events take on a less serious tone than the Race which sees the country’s elite mountain bikers go head to head for the title of sani2c champions.
Importantly for riders in the Trail, they are aware that there are no prizes for the winners. The first event is often an introduction to the sani2c with many novices taking part in the most relaxed of the three events.
The Adventure then ramps up the competitiveness a notch with action on the front end of this version becoming quite fierce as riders look to stake a claim to the top step of the podium.
Tough, antagonistic racing during the stages is often overshadowed by the camaraderie and friendships that are established or reignited over a drink at the two overnight stops.
Photo: Riders gathered for their pre-race briefing before the Trail gets underway on Tuesday at Glencairn Farm in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg. (Kevin Sawyer/Gameplan Media)