Sondela – Zebula: 80km 974m ascent
The stage takes off in Sondela and immediately exits the Resort onto the famous Springbok flats. The first 14km of the stage is nice and quick with the first single track piece presenting itself at 4km. The single track is wide enough so that riders can still pass each other on this section.
Heading in a North-Easterly direction, a gentle climb is on the horizon before the stage crosses over the N1 into Bosfontein Caravan Park, which is the event’s first formal entry into the Waterberg.
Bosfontein has done of a lot of work for us and the venue, which is already known for some fine single track, has assured us they have something even more special in store for the event.
The route goes around the mountain and riders then travel along the plateau overlooking the entire Springbok flats.
The route stays on the plateau until it enters the very well known ATKV resort of Klein Kariba. Some wonderful Klein Kariba hospitality waits at their water point before we tackle their beautifully sculpted single track trails.
Exiting Klein Kariba the stage goes down the mountain and hits its first imposing gorge section. The scenery here is something to behold and riders will no doubt talk about this around the evening camp fires.
The route then passes through Thaba Manzi, which is well known as the largest game auction site in the country, and then we go through Letshwe Lametsi.
This is where the first serious climb awaits on a jeep cement track up to what is again a wonderful plateau section. We ride next to the Letshwe Lametsi game enclosures and down the gorge once again to the bottom where the second water point awaits. Water is bottled at source right next to this water point (pretty cool!).
A challenging climb and quick descent leads the stage into the Waterberg Estate where riders gradually climb past Elements Estate and then drop down from the plateau on a delightfully contoured descent, while still staying west of Elements. It takes a concerted effort at times to keep the bike flowing at times on this section, but a few pedal strokes inevitably lead to a nice long downhill on the other side.
The race then heads in the direction of Zebula where it again traverses in-between game enclosures. A last little climb – just to set the tone for a nice quick finish – precedes a district gravel road and riders then enter Zebula through their back gate, leading onto Zebula’s single track for the final 5km.
The stage finishes at the well-known Zebula Golf Club.
Zebula – Zebula: 73.4km 633m ascent
After a hearty breakfast, the stage starts at the Zebula Golf Club and there are lots of twists and turns in the first few kilometres. There isn’t a lot of climbing today, but there are ample sharp rises and drops, so riders have to keep their wits about them.
The route takes riders through Zebula, out the main gate, and across the road into their famous elephant camp where they host their well-known elephant safaris. There will certainly be elephant sightings on this section.
Riders go in and out of various river beds that lead onto a sharp rocky climb. We then go along the border line and over to the other side of the plateau. Some wonderful downhill single track sections wait on the other side of the plateau.
The first half of the race is downhill with a few sharp climbs and the second half starts to climb at 37km. It’s predominantly uphill, although not hectically so, all the way to the finish at 73km.
The halfway surprise on this stage is two floating bridges which we’re building over the dams of two farms for which the friendly farmers gave us permission.
The latter half of the route goes past various game farms that host the big five, which are protected from the race by game fencing, and you’re likely to spot some of the big game.
The well-known Mabula lodge also forms part of the sightings on the left hand side where riders are also very likely to spot some of the big five.
The final 10km take place on Zebula again and we use the single track on the resort, which we’re doing quite a bit of work on. The event goes past their luxury lodges before finishing again at the Golf Club.
On this stage it’s important to note that we are privileged to ride in-between so many farms that host the Big 5, and also through the Zebula elephant camp. These elements will add some real excitement on the stage.
Zebula – Sondela: 69.8km 855m ascent
The final stint takes off again at the Zebula Country Club, leaving in a South-Easterly direction onto Syferfontein. The route then hits the river bed which is downhill for 9.6km on fast flowing single track and then we cross onto a gravel road for 2km before entering the famous Mabalingwe Game Reserve.
We will be on the southern part of the Mabalingwe Mountain and stay on the foothills of the mountain. There are slight inclines on this section, but it’s very nice and ride-able. This section is mostly on jeep track with short sections of single track thrown in-between with a bit of a rocky bounce to ensure everyone’s skill levels are on par.
And then we enter the main centre of Mabalingwe Game Reserve and the famous Vodacom Hill climb starts. This is the toughest climb of the entire event. The climb is predominantly on cement jeep track, but it does have a few nasty rocky surprises. This section was always used on the Lion Man single day race, and it really gets tough close to the top – fortunately it’s mostly cemented.
The stage enters the neighbouring farm, but still riding on top of the mountain and we carry on, overlooking to the left the Waterberg Mountains and to the right the Springbok Flats.
We stay on top of the mountain for close on 7km before dropping down into Droogekloof and further on into the valley into Swartkloof Game farm.
In Swartkloof we’re south of the mountain with lots of delightful single track on offer as well as ample game viewing opportunity. The stage heads past the municipal dam of Bela-Bela, climbing upwards on jeep track and then into the Bospoort Valley on a gravel road for 5km.
Turning off the gravel road the race hits fast and flowing single track to bring us out south of the Thaba Manzi Rhino Sanctuary. Riders will most definitely see Rhinos in the Sanctuary before entering Klein Kariba on the Southern Side and again lots of purposely built single track which links up with the final water point.
The stage crosses the R101 to enter the last phase, riding next to the Eersbewoon Road on a 5km single track stretch. This is a fun section with lots of ramps and berms. Then it’s a right turn over the railway line entering into the Gericke’s Game Farm and the Gericke’s have some wonderful quick game trails which we’ve gained access to. The trail goes underneath the N1 and into Sondela and the last 5km will be the best single track that Sondela has to offer!