The Liberty Waterberg MTB Encounter is set to become a permanent date on the South African mountain biking calendar after being showered with praise from inaugural winner Gertjie Harmse.
The three-day race, which took place near Bela-Bela in Limpopo last weekend, is the second leg of the Encounter Series and follows the staging of the highly successful Winelands MTB Encounter in the Western Cape over the past two years.
Harmse and Devan Kruger, riding in the colours of SST-Clotan, scooped first prize after completing the event in 10:59:33.
The organisers, ASG Events, said the focus was not just on winning, but on everything the race had to offer.
Facing a crash of rhinos with just your bicycle as an exit strategy, tackling new trails in challenging conditions and then being able to unwind in luxury accommodation provided all the elements of a modern mountain bike event, said Harmse.
“I thought the organisers did a tremendous job in creating routes through this area that has a reputation for being sandy and with all the challenges of private land,” he said.
“The route markings were great, the sand was raked to make the route ‘easier’ at places and tracks were made where none existed.”
The route planners negotiated with game farm owners in the region to pass through their land, exposing participants to the Waterberg biosphere and animals they would not normally encounter.
Harmse said the venue, food and accommodation provided at the Sondela and Zebula race villages was superb.
He said he had no doubt it had the potential to become a “must do” race on the cycling calendar.
“I would love the opportunity to ride it again next year myself.”