South African mountain biking’s best-kept secret

IMAGES BY: Anthony Grote


The KAP sani2c is one of SA’s most-loved mountain bike stage races, and after celebrating a successful 20th edition last month, the team looks forward to hosting the sani2c nonstop from 21-23 June. The race follows 250 km of the sani2c trails from Glencairn to Scottburgh and must be completed within a 24-hour period.

Joel Stransky has entered as Team Lumohawk with Geoff Lee and Graham Parker, and Devon Baird in the support vehicle. The three have each done many Cape Epics and other endurance events, and Joel joins the Rugby Legends regularly at the KAP sani2c.

He says: “nonstop is very different. There is something about these longer races, it’s like looking into your soul. It's tough in the night, to spend that many hours on a bicycle. It's something unique. I don't think you can really train for something like this, I mean, when will you ever be prepared to wake up at 2 am and go and ride? You don't do a 12-hour training ride, you just don't train for that.

“You reach a point in life where the training becomes flippin’ hard, and to race as we sometimes do, you suffer. But then you get the burning desire to go and suffer again. The fact that you can do this as a team of two, three or four, adds another dynamic as well. To push yourself to that place where afterwards you have such a great sense of satisfaction, you get that sense of conquering and achievement that you only get from doing something really tough,” he says.

He says the plan is less about racing and more about enjoyment: “I'm doing half Ironman in a week’s time, so I am definitely going to be the weakest in our team when it gets to sani nonstop. We're just going to ride steady and enjoy it. These trails around sani2c are sensational and to ride them at night as a group, with your mates, is great.”

Jarrad van Zuydam, who will return for his third nonstop, was part of last year’s winning team Strove, and says: “sani2c nonstop is South African mountain biking’s best-kept secret: “It really is the best race on the calendar, and I've done plenty of races. There's just a lot of brilliant, brilliant singletrack riding and you do all those trails in one go, with some of them being at night. Pretty much all of them you do on your own because the field gets spread out so quickly, and it's just you and your mates on some of the best trails in the world. I don't think there's many other races that can give you that experience. It's a unique event, and one that we've really enjoyed over the last couple of years.”

Riders will gather at Glencairn Farm near Underberg on the afternoon/evening of Friday 21 June, grabbing a few hours sleep before heading out at 2 am. The winning Team Strove last year took 12 hours, 12 minutes and 29 seconds to cover the 250 km distance to the beach at Scottburgh.

The nonstop event is not new, it first took place soon after sani2c was established in 2005, from 2007 to 2009. In 2022, after many years of requests and discussion, the nonstop returned and already has teams coming back year after year.

A big change this year: the support vehicle is no longer a mandatory requirement. After much demand was expressed for an unsupported ride, sani2c founder Glen Haw has relented and will facilitate unsupported entries.

He says: “We modelled this event on the Dusi system of using seconds, whose support can make or break your race. We grew up doing Dusi and our family have all done many Dusis. We still feel this is the best way to have a great experience at nonstop but we do understand there are some riders who are keen to push themselves to the limit and also not worry with the logistics of bringing a vehicle and having a supporter. We have arranged shuttles for those who do have a vehicle but no supporter, and unsupported teams will get two black boxes which will be available to them at Mackenzie Club, the usual stage 1 stop, and at Jolivet Farm, the usual day 2 stopover.”

Jarrad van Zuydam agrees about the support: “The added dimension of your second, and seeing them along the route can't be underestimated and the importance of them in the team. Without a good second you are probably not going to do very well.

“You don't do Iconic climb out of the valley, which is maybe a good thing, but you've got a pretty big stretch of district road climbing to do instead. Here your supporter vehicle is with you and they can play your favorite rock music, shout and scream, and give you some encouragement.”

He says the only not-so-fun thing is the beach finish at the end of riding 250 kms: “Trying to peddle through sand and falling off your bike and scrambling to the finish line, is definitely not the highlight, but crossing that finish line really is something special - a sense of relief and the sense of accomplishment.

He says that another obvious highlight is the Umkomaas Drop: “I mean it's always something that's spoken about in South African mountain biking, but the nonstop sani gives you the opportunity to do The Umko Drop pretty much on your own, and have a free run, just you and your mates flying down the Umkomaas. Even the stage one riding is brilliant because we know those trails so well from sani2c, but doing them at night makes them completely different. Again, it's just you alone in the dark, the crunch of the gravel on your tyres, it's brilliant.”

Glen says: “Come and join us for an adventure of a lifetime, but remember you will probably need to mark your calendar for next year as well, because sani2c nonstop gets under your skin and will have you wanting to come back for more.”

Grab your entry via the sani2c website or at www.nonstop.sani2c.co.za