Photos by Erik Vermeulen
DAY 2, 19 May 2017: Everyone knew that day two of the Trail & Trout 3 Day Stage Race was going to be a tough ride, with serious climbing up gravel roads dominating the 84 km route. What riders’ didn’t expect was the seductive lull before the storm – a beautiful morning ride.
Starting out from Race Village One at De Villa Lodge, competitors were first treated to a short ride along the banks of the Olifants River. With the river behind them, riders then crossed under the N11 and headed into farmland. First up was a pleasant ride through orchards, followed by a 5 km canal path before they entered game farm country for some fun jeep track and single track riding.
However, by the time competitors had passed the first water point at the 22 km mark, their reality had changed dramatically. They were now riding on gravel roads, and climbing hard – a situation that wouldn’t change until they were near the finish line. It was a long hard grind but offered stunning vistas of the Mpumalanga countryside for riders who still had the energy to take in the view. The hardest section of the ride kicked in at the 39 km mark, where the longest uphill of the route went continued for 5.4 km and, at one point, was also the route’s steepest section.
After passing Water Point Two 44 km into the ride, competitors left the gravel road and enjoyed some jeep track and farm roads, which eventually brought them to the highest point of the day: 1 815 m. From there, everything was literally all downhill to the end point – Race Village Two, located at the remote Fountain Valley Nature Reserve, 45 km outside Middelburg.
The last 10 km stretch was the fun bit, where weary riders could eventually see what a downhill looked like. The longest downhill section of the ride, a bracing 2.61 km stretch of gravel road at the 75.6 km mark allowed riders to pick up some serious speed for the first time of their long ride. All that remained was a relatively flat 3 km section that led them to their stop-over for the night.
Stage 2 in numbers
Distance: 84 km
Total ascent: 1 400 m
Total descent: 730 m
Steepest uphill: +11.1% (at 39.96 km)
Steepest downhill: -11.1% (at 19.17 km)
Longest uphill: 5.4 km (at 39.15 km)
Longest downhill: 2.61km (at 71.46 km)
Highest point: 1 815 m