Trail Safari to the Downhill WorldCup Kick-Off

[Text by Steffi Marth] Here we are, German Team Jasper Jauch and myself together with UK Photographer and Creative Supervisor Nathan Hughes. Our main aim is to show the best possible performance at the first Downhill World Cup in South Africa´s Pietermaritzburg because that is what we trained for all winter long. But on the way to last year´s UCI MTB World Championships venue we want to experience the local bike scene as well as the African vibe around this popular city laying at the foot of Table Mountain and Lions Head Hill – Capetown.

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We are located 30mins. away from Capetown, just outside the beautiful city of Stellenbosch on the road to Jonkershoek. What sounds like a dutch drinking game is actually a postcard perfect, stunning Nature Reserve full of Biketrails that are ideal for both – uphill and downhill riding. We were lucky to receive the insider information, after getting in touch with the RideIn ( owner Gavin King who made sure we had the closest and best accomodation possible to this unique and rich landscape. The RideIn describes itself as a place for cycle meets and coffee mornings… for us on top of this it‘s   a spot for mountainbikers to relax in a great atmosphere, have long sunset chats over cold beer, laze in comfortable beds, eat too much delicious food, benefit from tools and washes for our bikes and find world class trails directly out of the door etc. .

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In our first days here we ride our bikes of course in Jonkershoek, on nicely shaped trails like „The never ending story“ … before we follow another local´s hint to find the „G-Spot“. It is truely funny that you can ask a dad with his son, both on bikes, where we can find the G-Spot without any awkwardness. The whole area is full of mountainbikers, that´s why names of and directions to biketrails are common knowledge. The G-Spot is a massive, very african looking field with one-meter high bushes which hide the multitude of built trails with different bike-play features. Ripping some of the jumps and corners we meet the Marathon-/XC-guys that are also staying in the RideIn. Clearly we weren‘t the only ones who understood how to enjoy time before a big race in this area; these guys were actually connecting the Cape Epic with the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg with some nice relaxed training in between.

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Amongst all the action on two wheels we decide to take our four-wheel drive vehicle to Capetown to check out the whole range between expensive appartments at the beautiful waterfront around the Cape to a Township-experience that will stay on my mind for some time longer. South Africa is clearly one of the today´s countries with the highest emotion-filled history that is still so noticeably strong. Beside the city life of course you have to see some wildlife when you are on the continent of Lions, Tigers, Elephants and Zebras. We decided to focus on Cheetahs and actually found ourselves cuddling with some ten-months young Cheetah girls.

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Enough peaceful touristic activities for Jasper and me, today is our first race day of the year. The 2nd round of the WP DHI Cup in Helderberg, Somerset West. The track is diverse  with a couple of rock sections, road gaps, speed jumps and loose switch-backs. We have fun in practise but finally glad it is a one-day race with only one race-run because the heat is incredible. African autumn can have some intense weather. It was good to see a couple of riders having massive family support and everyone enjoying the race, no real competition atmosphere. Although we have to deal with only a couple of practise runs we finish the day up with a good feeling of being perfectly prepared for the World Cup which is only a couple of days away. Nevertheless in which position we end up at the World Cup next weekend, this trip is already a big success. With such a strong and still expanding cycling scene in incredible terrain, South Africa is a place you should be sure not leave your bike behind.

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Tutta la zona è piena di mountainbikers, infatti i nomi dei trail e dove portano sono cose che tutti sanno. Il G-spot è un grande campo, dall’aspetto marcatamente africano, con cespugli alti un metro che nascondono una quantità di sentieri con diverse caratteristiche.

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Nel  mezzo dell’azione su due ruote, abbiamo deciso di spostarci a Capetown  per essere sicuri di vedere tutto quello che c’è tra i costosi appartamenti ed il bel porto attorno al capo, per un’esperienza nella township che resterà nei miei ricordi a lungo. Il Sudafrica è uno dei paesi che hanno la storia più emozionante ed ancora così forte.

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E’ stato bello vedere alcunii rider con grande supporto dalla famiglia e vedere tutti divertirsi in gara, non c’era vera competizione nell’aria. Anche se abbiamo fatto solo un paio di discese di prova, abbiamo concluso la giornata confidenti di essere preparati alla perfezione per la coppa del mondo, a cui mancano solo un paio di giorni. Indipendentemente dalla posizione che riusciremo a raggiungere in World Cup, il viaggio è un successone già adesso. Con una comunità di biker così forte e ancora in crescita su questo terreno incredibile, il Sudafrica è un paese in cui portare assolutamente la bici.

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