Lourensford MTB Classic 2022

It’s tough riding in a wind tunnel!

Words by Alastair Sellick and Images by Johan Kriegler

So having recovered from the ordeal of Attakwas 2022 in January and the wet, rainy Cape Town Cycle Tour in March, the Lourensford MTB Classic seemed like a welcome respite. Little did we know that after the Heat of Atta and the Rain of CTCT, Lourensford would expose us to a new element of torture, namely Wind.

While the MC was warming up the crowds, JK (Johan Krieger, the wizard behind Wines to Whales and these Lourensford trails) gave us some guidance on how to deal with the wind that lay ahead. But it wasn’t windy at the Start / Finish line, so I didn’t really pay that much attention or even feel slightly worried.

And so we were off and I got a good comfortable rhythm going, until literally the first right hand corner when we were riding slap bang into a gale force headwind. Immediate peloton mentality kicked in, and every available chance to shelter behind someone else was utilised. We made our way along the valley floor, and then the grind of climbing up into the 40km/h South Easter wind began. This was tough. With hindsight, the time to take a gel was right at the start! But I hadn’t so it was a struggle. As we got higher and higher, the wind got stronger and stronger. The compensation was that the rising sun lit up the Helderberg Dome and the reward on glancing back – False Bay, Gordon’s Bay and even Cape Point eased the hardship temporarily.

There was a huge wind cloud ahead of us, so the top and the turn downwind had to be nearby. Then just before we crested, it got crazy. The wind was so strong it was pelting us with pieces of gravel from the jeep track and they were pinging off my bike frame and helmet. I had to walk the last steep 20 or so meter’s into that; one guy managed to ride it, but several others joined the walk to the turning point.

Once we turned, it was great – a fast downhill plus tail wind but you quickly realise the danger of cornering at speed with the wind howling across the jeep track, threatening to literally blow you off the trail and down into the fynbos! Having survived those corners, we were now riding towards the beautiful vistas – more clouds over the Gordon’s Bay mountains, Sir Lowry’s Pass and even Table Mountain in the distance. Truly spectacular scenery, with a dash of adrenalin on the side.

I was still scarred by the memory of the final long climb to the single tracks and finish of the 2021 Wines 2 Whales Switchback, where we were punished at the death by a long winding climb around the Helderberg Dome, which never
seemed to end.

Luckily, this time it was shortened and the trail builders have been busy cutting some incredible new single tracks between the forestry roads. This was the reward for having toughed out the mad wind: smooth, flowing fun that seemed to go on and on! Dome, Fairy Forest, African Cruiser, Karoo-my-Bru, Stelvio Switchbacks, Tougher-er, Ride for Child and Rasta - the oldest trails on the farm built by JK and some mates 13 years ago. Lourensford is MTB heaven that boasts excellent flow trails that you have to experience. Truly as good as it gets.

Eventually we ran out of downhill, and the last 3 kms were on the flat, but on some fun and varied single track trails - the River Beat long the banks of the Lourens river taking you home. Racing in SA is back after the lean Covid years, and what a blast. Lourensford is a spectacular venue, and this race can only grow from strength to strength as riders realise what a gem it is.

Videos supplied by Jaco Pelser