Three hundred mountain bikers experienced the rebirth of relaxed stage race riding on the 17th and 18th of February in the 2018 Stanford MTB Classic. The two day race was in reality more of a stage ride, with untimed routes and no prizes for the first riders across the line encouraging everyone to slow down and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
Hosted by the Stanford Valley Guest Farm, in the fertile vineyard lined valleys and on the pristine fynbos covered slopes of the Perdeberg Mountains, to the east of the country village of Stanford the event took in some of the Overberg’s best kept secrets. The 46 and 40 kilometre stage distances meant that time in the saddle, even at a leisurely pace, was limited meaning time relaxing off the bike in the beautiful race village could be maximised.
Stage one featured a mix of smooth gravel district roads, a little more rugged vineyard jeep tracks, a grassy 4×4 trail to the highest point of the day and the flowing Paardenberg Farm singletracks which wind their way along, and across a couple of times, the Waboomsrivier. The highlight of the day was either the swing-bridge crossing of the Waboomsrivier or the descent back to the Stanford Valley Guest Farm; depending on who one asked. The hot weather was tempered by a cooling wind, but that only served to ensure that the Spar water points, stocked with koeksisers, watermelon and the more conventional water point snacks were utilized to a greater extent.
Post stage, riders kicked back and relaxed under the shady oaks on the Stanford Valley Guest Farm lawns; with the riders enjoying a delicious lunch before whiling away their afternoon with a good book, an excellent beer, or deep in conversation over one of the region’s world class wines.
Stage two featured more scenic 4×4 trails, this time along the foothills of the Kleinrivier Mountains as the route meandered towards Stanford itself, passing by the Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary and through the safer but no less distraction filled Sir Robert Stanford Wine Estate, where an impromptu wine tasting awaited. Following on the heels of port tasting at Vaalvlei the shorter distance of just 40 kilometres was perhaps a wise option by race organisers Freebody-Sports.
The conclusion of the final stage was followed by lunch under the oaks and a lucky draw prize-giving, where riders regardless of where in the field they finished stood an equal chance of winning one of the prizes donated by the Stanford MTB Classic sponsors. While each and every rider contributed to making the event a festive and social success a special word of praise must go to Lizelle Cloete and Charl Avenant who dressed up on both days and as such have won a weekend’s accommodation at the beautiful Stanford Hills Guest Farm for their exceptional spirit.
For riders looking to experience a more intense mountain biking experience, entries are open for Freebody-Sports’ sister event, the Greyt Escape. The event is a three day mountain biking stage race which takes place from the mountain biking mecca of Greyton from the 15th to the 17th of June 2018. For more information on the Greyt Escape please visit www.thegreytescape.co.za.
The 2019 Stanford MTB Classic meanwhile is pencilled in for the 16th and 17th of February next year, and for more information please visit www.stanfordmtbclassic.co.za.
Words by Seamus Allardice