DR. EVIL CLASSIC
FOREST & FYNBOS
WORDS BY: Sean Paul and Glenn Honeyman
DR. EVIL CLASSIC
An entry into Dr Evil 2023 was a welcome addition to my year’s mountain biking events, but the name always conjures up thoughts of severe pain and suffering. I think it was that way in the early days, so 2023 was going to be an interesting test of this reworked iconic event in the Plettenberg Bay area.
Registration at the Wittedrift School just outside of Plettenberg Bay has a family feel. Cheerful school children in their uniforms are ever present, showing support for the event and feeding race goers with home cooked foods in preparation for the days that follow.
Day 1 dawned a beautiful day, and riders descended on the school grounds for the start of the event. With approximately 300 entrants, the start has a chilled vibe, with a good spread of all ages. Lighthearted start line commentary and good coffee set the tone for a less amped, adventure filled 3 days of mountain biking.
With the racing E-bikes always off first, the rest of the riders leave 15 minutes later. Well-marked routes and stunning single tracks lead riders in all directions through the forests, some routes recognizable from previous races, others not, but all great fun. Abundant water stops are always a welcome sight, very well stocked with all kinds of food and drinks and aided by friendly volunteers. A few nasty climbs in the middle of the day keep riders honest, and in keeping with the name, a challenging little climb near the end makes the last bit of downhill all worthwhile to the finish line.
Day 1 finishes at Cairnbrogie, which is the perfect venue for such an event. Lunch is served from one of the farm’s historical barns and the food is absolutely to die for. Beer tents and Seattle Coffee add the finishing touches to your culinary desires as riders chill on grass outside in the sun.
Day 2 started with a light drizzle post a fair bit of overnight rain. Despite the enthusiasm of all riders on the start line at Cairnbrogie, I don’t think any of the riders knew exactly what they were in for. Day 2 is a circular route finishing back at Cairnbrogie.
It was mud from the get-go. And with the mud, came slippery! Very, very slippery. The prospect of slipping and sliding and a possible tumble on the simple single tracks around the farm were high. But that’s all part of mountain biking, right! Once into the Harkerville forest, the riding is simply sublime with plenty of single tracks crisscrossing thick forests.
Up and down. Dr Evil was certainly making us work hard, but as the kilometers ticked away, you start to see the same group of riders that you rode with on Day 1 always in your proximity.
Once back on the Cairnbrogie Farm, Day 2 gives you a taste of the network of sweeping trails that have been created. Fast, sweeping, berms, and superbly designed! Utterly adrenaline spiking! One quickly forgot about all the mud earlier, or the fact that the bikes were creaking and grinding after a hard day’s work! A good test of one’s abilities and resolve, but an amazing day.
New friendships are always kindled and there’s lots of “gees” when you hit that finish line. A large contingent of Trail Angels were out in full support, adding colour and frivolity to the entire event.
Again, a full lunch after the days riding adds to the dwell time, before riders head off to their respective accommodations in the town and surrounds.
After some TLC, lots of chain lube and Q20, and the bikes were ready for Day 3.
The race organizers made some early judgement calls with the pending torrential rains predicted and announced a shortened route for Day 3 – a truly good call which would ensure that everyone would be in safely before the storm hit.
Day 3 started with some trepidation, knowing the conditions from the previous day but it was nothing short of amazing. Trails that yesterday were like slush porridge were now hard and crisp. The trails had dried and hardened in just 24hrs.
The route planners certainly put you to task, pushing you up and up and up which certainly hurt. When you got to the top and your heart rate was spiking, they threw you into single tracks that were simply magnificent. Berms, sweeping fast all the way to the bottom only to turn you up another hill again to do the same – all 6 or 7 times. That was the order of events for day 3, until the last climb, a climb we knew all too well having ridden it in the days previously.
At the top and on the skyline, with Cairnbrogie in the distance, it was flat out for home. The day might have been rain shortened by 25 kilometers, but the legs were no less weary. One tends to ride harder over shorter distances.
A final lunch was dished up amidst the buzz of a completed 3-day event. Nobody seemed to want to leave, and everybody just stood around absorbing the atmosphere. Prize giving was brought forward (the organizers timed this perfectly) and as the last accolades were dished out, the first signs of rain started. With prize giving and the lucky draws concluded, everybody jumped into vehicles and headed for their destinations.
A truly, truly awesome event, well hosted, well organized and something that one could certainly put on a bucket list for years to come. Is the name Dr Evil appropriate for this event? I’m not sure! Evil is not necessarily the right word… but if I was 10 years younger, I’d describe it as Wicked Bru!