Organisers of the new Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge that replaces the traditional weekend of trail running and mountain biking are celebrating the innovative month-long event as a true reflection of the year-round partnerships between the Karkloof Country Club, its backers and the local community.
The annual Sappi Karkloof Trail Festival that usually attracts over two thousand participants to the Karkloof valley in June was one of the many events that could not take place under the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. However, the host club has launched a new month-long option for riders and runners to enjoy the trails and experience many of the fresh innovations that have taken place in the past year.
The Karkloof MTB Club and Howick MTB Club merged under the Karkloof Country Club last year, leading to some bold new additions to the club and the full-time appointment of the Nguni Trails trail building team.
Andrew Nicholson, the Karkloof Country Club Chairman says the revamped club has much to offer and the new month-long window will give riders and runners a chance to enjoy some trails not normally open to recreational visitors to the valley.
Riders will be able to sign up for 60km, 40km and 20km routes specifically prepared for the new Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge while runners can opt for trails of 10km and 21km, any time between Saturday 24 October and Sunday 15 November, complying with all the usual Covid-19 protocols and enjoying the rides and trail runs in their own time.
There will also be two days when enduro courses will be set up with timing gates so that lovers of the high adrenaline gravity MTB discipline can also get involved in the Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge. The added benefit in the Challenge is that riders can check out the leader board and return to try and better their times the next weekend, which is not the case in regular race events.
“You register either through ROAG as usual or you can register at the club on the day, collect your Challenge buff, and once you have completed your ride or run, you then upload your time to the ROAG website and collect your refreshment,” explained Nicholson.
“If you want to try and improve your time you are welcome to do that by just paying the usual day trail fee,” he added.
Nicholson stressed that the past year had seen the relationship between the club, Sappi and the local community transcend the focus on one weekend of activity to a year-round offering that would have benefits for the club, several key local organisations as well as the many regular runners, walkers, hikers and riders that visit the club to enjoy the trails through the Sappi plantations.
“We are heavily focussed on shared value now,” explained Nicholson. “We have added a lot of new facilities and trails to the offering at the Karkloof Country Club, and we have been able to do that with the support of our backers like Sappi and STIHL who share our long term vision of being a fully sustainable and responsible custodian of these trails.”
“As we grow the network of trail on offer we will need more staff assisting the Nguni Trails trail building team. We have a new team of local community members working at the new Karkloof Café and Bar, the new bike wash facility and there is also a new overnight camping facility at the club .
Sappi’s Communication Manager Zelda Schwalbach said the club was on track to realising many of its sustainability and social responsibility goals.
“Sappi has actively supported controlled access to Sappi land for recreational and event riding for well over ten years. In this time, the focus of the Sappi Trails Programme has evolved to strongly uphold the philosophy of Creating Shared Value. This means ensuring that the benefits of providing this access extends as far down the value chain as possible,” said Schwalbach.
“The Karkloof Country Club has risen to the challenge in the past five years in terms of shared value, supporting the Nguni Trails trail building business and team, the Karkloof Early Childhood Development Centre at Hawkstone School as well as the Karkloof Café and Bar. All these projects involve upskilling and career progression, and support tourism growth in the Karkloof valley, which is largely centred around the trail network.
“In a year as testing as 2020, we are proud to once again support the Karkloof Country Club through sponsorship of the Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge,” she added.
“During the national lockdown, the Club was restricted in its ability to allow this access, but can do so now within the permissible COVID protocols, allowing for this fresh format which will extend trail enjoyment over a longer period to a broader spectrum of participants. It is heartening to see the commitment of the Karkloof Country Club to the shared value projects, where participation in the Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge will generate further project funding to sustain these initiatives.
“We encourage runners and riders of all abilities to take advantage of the ‘no pressure’ format, and enjoy safe and peaceful trail-time on the newly marked Challenge routes,” she concluded.
The Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge
Starts Saturday 24 October and ends on Sunday 15 November
MTB Routes : 60 (R150), 40km (R120), 20km (R100) and Enduro (R250)
Trail Running : 10 (R100), 21km (R120)
Enter through www.roag.co.za or by electronic payment scanned at the Karkloof Club on the day.
Times uploaded at www.roag.co.za
More info can be found at www.karkloofclub.co.za
Photo: Mountain bikers will have a month to ride the new Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge, with options of 20km, 40km and 60km on offer. (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)