Fist pumps all round.
Image credit: Ash Smit
After surviving ‘The Beach’, Collin and I were ready for the final stage of the Gravel & Grape. A meandering start along a tar road soon turned into a full on sprint as we turned onto the dirt and realised that we would immediately be entering a single track, positioning was crucial. The white flag had dropped and it was war! Think of something similar to the PRO TOUR gents jostling for position before a section of cobbles at Paris Roubaix. The only difference, we were going a tad slower and were on mountain bikes. I like to convince myself of the similarities, but the differences are probably more glaringly obvious.
Colin was caught behind some traffic and we only re-joined a few kilometres later at the top of the first major climb of the day. With some dirt roads coming up we got the through and off rolling in anticipation of chasing the front group down.
Support at the water points had elevated us to local hero status, we had spent time getting to know the locals in the evenings and as a result we had them shouting for us by name as we raced past. Meeting people in these local communities is always interesting and their passion in hosting a mountain bike event where we ride across many of their farms has been fantastic.
There was more rough rocky single track, some faster dirt roads and the odd tour of an orchard which ticked off the final kilometres of the stage and thus the race. We again finished 4th on the day and also 4th overall. It was a great 3 days of racing alongside Colin and there were many grand moments on and off the bike.
Contego sealed the overall honours with a final stage win, with Uys and Groustra in 2nd on the day and in the same position on the GC. The youngsters Esterhuyse and Best had finished strongly again to land both feet on the final podium in 3rd.
All in all the Gravel & Grape was a great event and one which I would love to return to next year. The concept of the race village being hosted at Goudini Spa was more than convenient, we didn’t have to camp (although you could have if you wanted to). The food hall was within walking distance and the bike wash and mechanics a quick ride away.
The routes were quite tough, we probably enjoyed the first day the most. After chatting to the race organisers we realised how little rain that the region has had in the past few months, this explains ‘The Beach’ and it was evident by the exceptionally low level of dams in the area.
Course marking was really first class with a marker prior to each turn, through the turn and a confirmation marker past it, it takes a lot of time to set something like that up and we appreciated it.
The region is one which many Capetonians have driven through many times on the N1. It really is a beautiful area, probably largely unexplored and one which I would urge you to spend some more time in next time you are going through, in fact even make it your destination.
Lot’s of hard work into these crafted bridges.
Image credit: Casian Johnson Wright