GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - The Garden Route has always been a drawcard for outdoor sport, offering some of the most diverse and beautiful mountain biking and running trails anywhere.
In December of 2011, around a campfire deep in the Karoo, the seed for a unique mountain bike event was planted.
Lenore Collet and her husband Wayne dreamed of creating a stage race that would take riders all the way from the lush, green forests of George in the Garden Route, through the Klein Karoo, the Overberg region and finishing in South Africa’s picturesque winelands.
The aim was to make the primary goal of the event not the race to the finish, but rather, the adventure of the journey. A boutique MTB experience, it would offer tough riding, complemented by the very best in accommodation, food and attention to detail. And so, the TransCape was born.
TransCape was fortunate to get its 2020 event ticked off just ahead of the arrival of Covid-19, as many other major races fell victim to the pandemic, including the Absa Cape Epic, Two Oceans Marathon and Knysna Oyster Festival. With uncertainty about the immediate future of the bigger sports events, the future of the TransCape may well be strengthened.
I caught up with Lenore and Wayne to chat, and amidst the storm clouds, they see a ray of light.
As Lenore explained, the race was always designed to cater for a small field, for a more exclusive experience. Unlike major participation events with communal ablutions, TransCape riders have accommodation with en-suite bathroom and shower facilities. With ‘social distancing’ the new buzzword, that’s a huge advantage already.
2021 entries open
Race entries for the 2021 race in February have opened, and entrants are guaranteed a full refund in the event that the pandemic forces cancellation. Lenore is confident that the February date would be perfect timing.
“People are emotionally drained at the moment, and it’s just going to get worse as the year goes on. As we head into winter, there is unlikely to be an absolute return to normal. People are wanting to engage again, and by the time February comes around, the weather will be warm, and riders will be desperate to get out and ride multi-day events,” she says.
The race has always attracted a committed group of international riders, many of whom return every year. The crew and riders have almost become family. Again, the intimate size of the field lends itself to this, and they are ready to return for the 2021 reunion. At the moment, it’s just uncertainty on travel that is putting things on hold.
The word in Europe is that they are planning to have all systems go once their summer season is done, so the intention is there. Ultimately however, the virus will have the final word. Wayne recalls a few of the stages in 2020, where the mercury hit close to 40 degrees in the Klein Karoo. “No virus will deal with that,” he laughs.
Wayne agrees with Lenore on the timing. “Other stage races have over a thousand riders, on TransCape, we usually have less than one tenth of that.”
So, as far as easing back into some form of normality in 2021 concerns, this event, with its low numbers and an experience in the beautiful wide open spaces and fresh air of the Southern Cape, could be perfectly placed to keep the Garden Route on the trail map.
The seven-day TransCape is open to solo riders and teams, and more recently, the increasingly popular E-bikes have been welcomed. This category opens up the adventure to an entirely new class of thrill-seeker.
From George to Franschoek
The journey begins at Redberry farm in George, and the first day takes the riders up the classic Montagu pass and into the Klein Karoo, finishing 78km later at the Chandelier Game Reserve. A 100km ride into the absolutely incredible ‘oasis’ of Rooiberg lodge awaits on day two, with Riversdale the finish and another 78km on day three.
Another 98km to Gaikou Lodge in Swellendam ends day four - once again with jaw-dropping accommodation. Stage five is a 96km ride to the quaint town of Greyton, and an evening at The Oaks.
The penultimate stage dishes up some of the Western Cape's most beautiful MTB country as it takes the field to the legendary Houw Hoek Hotel, and then it’s the final 70km push to Franschhoek and welcome drinks at Hey Joe Brewery.
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of this event is that the real celebration comes not in finishing times and podiums, but in the form of lifelong friendships.
And in these uncharted times of pandemics and lockdowns, many of us have learnt that therein lies the real beauty.
For more information about the race, click here.
'We bring you the latest Garden Route, Hessequa, Karoo news'