Start planning your 2017 Mountain Bike event calendar

This week I saw a post on my FB feed that the 21st annual Barberton XCM MTB Challenge entry page has opened. My excitement at the thought of the next Barberton adventure was almost outdone by seeing 3 of my images {main image and the bottom two on the right} of the last event used for their promotional poster.

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Anyone that has been published before can tell you that there is a certain thrill, probably similar to chasing downhill on your mountain bike, when you see your work in print/digital format. Almost outdone… but nothing comes close to the excitement of being there in the moment, experiencing the route with your senses {and for this you’ll use all 5}, swishing your way along the many uphill, downhill and even a few *gravity hills.

So this made me go back to the image album and swiping through it I realised I never even told you about the previous event. And that’s how this post was conceived.

I could tell you about the verdant hills, wonderful views and great turnout. I could, but I’m not going to. That you can read somewhere else.

I’m going to show you what I saw at the 20th annual Barberton XCM MTB Challenge, and let you decide how to describe this amazing race in your own words.

My morning started early. I had a 04h00 wake up (more like a shake up) from Barry.

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The drive from Nelspruit to Barberton (R40) isn’t that long (in time and distance) but the route takes you along the Hilltop Pass, known for its many hairbend twists and turns, including 3 bends in excess of 120 degrees. One jack-knifed truck could seriously impact your ETA.

Our neighbour, Marius, decided to join in on the 20km fun ride (his first #mtb event – yeah!). So with me needing to zip around the hills for the promo pics and the men with all their gear and bikes, it was decided that we should take two vehicles on this trip.

That gave me the freedom to stop every so often, and I had them waiting in the yellow lines while I marvelled at this:

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Entrance into Barberton

We arrived at the starting venue around 6h15, and I stayed only long enough to see Barry collect his goody bag with an enormous smile on his face (a huge thumbs up to the sponsors of this event).

Now my clock was set to catch the riders on the route at the way points that I had selected the previous weekend on the recce ride.

20km & 30km
Don’t be fooled by the shorter distance, or the fact that some part of these two routes will lead you through sugarcane fields aka flat surface, because you’ll have plenty of obstacles to challenge any level of rider. And that being said, these two routes are a great way to start your MTB event year, as they are not too challenging and even a beginner can with some endurance make it to the finish line.

Marius chose the 20km option, the same route that Barry did in 2015 and wrote about in Barberton XCM MTB Challenge: Song of the Daisy Warrior 

From there I had to schoot my way up the steep incline of the Geotrail. My 1.25 Hyundai gave its all in 2nd gear, all the way to the top.

But first I had to stop and take in the view of Barberton and the surrounding farmland from one of the new picnic spots along the Geotrail Route.

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48km, 77km and 110km
Taking the riders through some of the most spectacular unspoilt mountainlands, these routes are something to definitely train for. Barry decided to do the 48km this year, and wasn’t disappointed in the least. It was all that it promised to be, and according to him, so much more.
The three routes have parts that overlap, taking the riders through varied landscapes of grasslands, Afromontane forests, forestry plantations and the Mountainlands Private Nature Reserve.

I’m not into superstition or reading signs, but at the end of the day, getting a rainbow spanning across the valley, must be proof that even nature agrees, this place is something special, and this event is not only colourful, but brings happiness to those seeking their pot of gold in “them hills”.

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* Gravity Hill (defined by Google as a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces an optical illusion, making a slight downhill slope appear to be an uphill slope.)

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