Glacier by Sanlam Storms River Traverse
Lush green indigenous forests, a good dose of mud, icy streams, great company, fantastic wine and a whole lot of fun! That’s the best way to describe the Glacier by Sanlam Storms River Traverse – a 3-day stage mountain bike race I’ve just returned from.
It was just the second time that Dryland Events had put on the race but I can see it having a very long future! The event focuses on family and the social aspect of mountain biking, and believe me when I say this: Mountain bikers know how “socialise”!
My mixed team partner, Robert Bateman and I flew up to George last Thursday morning and drove through to Tsitsikamma where we stayed at the Village Inn – a gorgeous hotel abundant with history dating back to the 1800’s! Since it was Woman’s Day, Glacier by Sanlam made it a very special occasion for all the woman there – both riders and supporters – with bursting goodie bags filled with everything from jewellery to body products! We auctioned off a beautiful Craig Port dress the same evening, which he kindly donated, the proceeds of which went to the event’s community project which involves both renovating a local school (Coldstream) and a hospitality-training program for 10 unemployed local youngsters.
The next 3 days were filled with some of the best riding I have ever done and tested the technical ability of even the best mountain biker! We rode through some breathtaking forests and at one stage ended up right on the ocean and pretty close to the famous Otter Trail. We also travelled through the beautiful Bluelillybush plantation onto The Fernery – a 109 hectare forest fern estate and lodge bordering on the Tsitsikamma National Park. Each day was approximately 45-50km long with anything between 700 and 900 meters of climbing, so a very “do-able” and fun stage race indeed!
I didn’t start the race being as fit as I’d like, and I’d take two months off from any races, so day 1 and 2 were rather tough, sending my heart rate through the roof at times on the big climbs. On the 3rd day however, I found my mojo, and Robert and I had a really fun sprint to the finish with Team Merrell (Carel Bezuidenhout and Nicole Giliomee). It was such an exciting sprint, draining me of every last resource I had but paid off as we came in in 4th position and then placed 5th overall in the mixed category.
Paul Valstar, commentator extraordinaire, was up on stage every night entertaining us endlessly with his charming and sometimes naughty wit and I joined him to hand out prizes to the phenomenal athletes who kicked butt in every stage while participants and their families enjoyed the endless flowing Fairview wine and mouth-watering dinner’s prepared by the Village Inn. Late nights were aplenty and I’m not sure how many of the mountain bikers managed to surface every morning to ride… But ride they did and all it did was fortify my great respect for how hard-core mountain bikers really are!
What struck me most was the attention to detail that the guys from Dryland shared with all their riders – from filled-to-the-brim yummy snack boxes to a laundry service for those uber-muddy clothes; friendly waterpoint volunteers cleaning sunglasses, feeding us well and washing our bikes too; free massages; children’s fun playgroups where kids could play for hours so that mum’s and dad’s could simply relax and take in the lovely surroundings that the Tsitsikamma region offers. They had it all!
This race is a must… it’s the perfect getaway. The actual race only takes up a few hours of your morning, leaving the rest of the day for you to explore the area or just relax with your family or partner. It’s gets you away from the busyness of the city, away from shopping centers and the TV, and connects you with the great outdoors, refueling your soul and refreshing that re-boot button. I will be back!
A very big thank you to Dryland Events – Henco, Carel and Bernard; the Glacier by Sanlam team – Donna and Helena; The Little Black Book – Marina and Jules; and last but not least my awesome race partner Robert who was an absolute machine!
Watch this space for the upcoming video by the brilliant Big Shot Media! (www.bigshotmedia.com)