Storms River Traverse is the ideal event to get into stage racing or mountain biking. The race featured a bit of everything - jeep track, single track, gravel roads. It was a really spectacular and scenic route along the Tsitsikamma coastline and in between the forests.
1. HOW DID YOU FIND THE ROUTE? WAS IT VERY TECHNICAL?
Kelsey: Stage 1 was a perfect route to kick start the event and get a taste of what more was to come. Kelsey - I was really happy that the route mainly featured gravel roads and jeep tracks, as I was still a little nervous for the single track. It was also a really great route to practice our communication and let each other know how we honestly feel during the ride.
Karla: Stage 1 was spectacular! We had a nice tailwind to waterpoint one and from there on some nice and technical terrain with the wind from the front that made it a bit harder. The ocean view made the day very special and made the headwind feel like (almost) nothing.
Kelsey: Stage 2 despite all of our punctures, was hands down my favorite day. The route was a little more challenging than day 1, but luckily I had Karla’s wheel to follow on the downhills and through the single track. Having a really technical skilled partner made it a lot easier. The amount of knowledge we learnt as a team on day 2 is really beneficial. We can now say we know how to plug a wheel and fix a puncture, and we will be more efficient next time.
Karla: Stage 2 was a blast with two steep climbs to start the day. You know what they say - what goes up must come down and the technical, forest downhills for sure made up for the climbing.. We had some mechanical problems that made our day a bit longer than expected, but to see everyone stopping and helping us gave us a whole different experience and just shows how special the people of this event are.
Kelsey: Stage 3 was a great mixture of day 1 and 2. We didn’t really have anything to lose on the last day. So at the bottom of the last climb we went full gas with the mentality that if we blew then we blew, at least we tried, but luckily we managed to stay away and take the ladies stage win. The gravel roads were in perfect condition even though it rained the night before. Champagne at the finish line marked the end of an amazing 3 days of racing and views in the Eastern Cape.
We had so much fun on the bike during the race. We were kind of sad when it came to an end, but we are looking forward to Cape Pioneer Trek for 7 days of fun and suffering.
2. WE ASKED KELSEY IF SHE FOUND THE EVENT A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO STAGE RACING?
This event was the perfect introduction for me into the world of mountain bike stage racing. The stages were nice and short which was really great, as I still have a lot to learn - especially in the single track and more technical sections. I love the new challenges that mountain biking has given me, anything can happen in a mountain bike race and there are new riders I'm competing with which all keeps the sport interesting.
3. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE EVENT OVERALL?
Kelsey: I have done many events and the Storms River Traverse has to be the best event I have ever done to date. The whole atmosphere and vibe during and after the stages was next level. Something we don’t see at road racing events / road stage races is having everyone, even your competitors socializing together over lunch or dinner. It was a pretty cool experience sitting at the dinner table with everyone you raced with chatting about the days stage and hyping each other up for what’s to come. Mountain Bikers are definitely built differently and super friendly.
Karla: The Storms River Traverse will always be a special race to me. The chilled atmosphere and beautiful scenery makes this event one of my favorites to date. I think it is the perfect race for anyone to join - from professional riders to weekend warriors. The views of the coast and the fresh forest air a one of a kind adventure.
4. IF YOU COULD SUM UP YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE?
Kelsey: Dryland has really set my exceptions quite high for how riders, especially the ladies are supposed to be treated at events. It is really special to see how newbies, experienced riders, spectators just how everyone felt welcomed and appreciated by the organizers. It really just felt like we were all one big mountain biking family for 3 days. If this is what mountain bike stage racing is all about then I’ll definitely be back.
Karla: The trails, the food, the people and the scenery were top class and one cannot ask for a better experience. Storms River Traverse rocks!
MARK VAN VEEN'S TOP SWISS EPIC TIPS & FACTS:
As this is a team event, first important thing to note is select your partner carefully. I had the opportunity to do this event with a great friend of mine and who also happens to be one of the last Cape Epic lions- Mike Nixon. Funny thing was that he was still classified as a “newbie” by the Swiss. The importance of a good teammate cannot be over-stressed as he held us together with all my “palavers”.
The Swiss Epic is a much smaller event than the Cape Epic with roughly 300 teams starting, but with a similar attrition rate of around 20-25% resulting in around 235 finishing teams. Most teams who dropped out either had altitude/ health issues or accidents.
Be ready for some arduous climbing and put on some comfortable walking/ cycling shoes. Training therefore should entail both the longest and steepest climbs you can find. Most climbs are around 10kms long (continuous) and an average gradient of 8 to 10% with sections over 20%. Also walk with your bike in rough steep terrain as you will have to jump off at points (unless you are Nino Schurter).
Be prepared for some rough/rocky shale and rooted single tracks. According to some of the participating Epic legends the single tracks on the Cape Epic are actually better prepared and in better condition. Must have something to do with the cost of labour in Switzerland…
Arrive at the start village (in our case Lenzerheide) at least a day in advance as this lies at 1500m. Some of the participants had been altitude training for over 10 days; others arrived just in time which showed up in the latter stages as the altitude changes the body oxygen intake dramatically and hence affects your muscles and your performance. Also perhaps check how your body reacts to altitude as each person’s DNA is different and hence effects are different.