The Hills Challenge MTB Race, 2016:

The day is the 22nd of October 2016 and it brings the very first “The Hills Challenge”.  I first spotted the flyer on my car at the Burger race in Stellenbosch and thought I would consider the ride because I have not heard the name before.

The Hills Challenge took place in the small town of Montagu, close to Robertson in the Western Cape.  I took the liberty of contacting the organizers a few weeks before the ride and they were more than willing to answer all my questions.

The ride itself has three distances 20km for beginners, 48km for those wanting to put in a good ride, and of course the 80km for those that prefer putting in some distance.

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I chose to take on the 80km’s to put in a good training session. The ride itself was exceptionally well organized and riders were well received by the organizers. The start and finish was set in the beautiful campsite of “Doringlaagte” just on the outside of Montagu.

The terrain is mostly made up of jeep track and long stretches of dirt roads, so for those who prefer to only stick to single tracks this might not be the ride for you. The sections of jeep track consist of a mixture of rocky and sandy roads, with parts being solid rock face that you cross, at times even on the uphills.

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The Hills Challenge starts off at “Doringlaagte” and heads off into the surrounding farms. Do be warned that a few sections of this route it across private land and the owners have given special permission for this race alone.  Once you have crossed through the farmlands, the route takes you into the surrounding hills where the climbing starts.  The first proper hill is called “Bobbejaan Bult” which translated is “Baboon hill” and the elevation climbs rapidly on this section up the hill to the top. The last section at the top of this hill is mostly loose gravel and gets technical towards the top, where some riders preferred to push their bikes up the last bit of the hill.

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After “Bobbejaan Bult” you are greeted by some narrow and fast downhills. The more experience riders would enjoy the technical challenge on these downhills, as the trails are filled with a mixture of sand and smooth, flat stones. The ride then takes you down long stretches of solid dirt roads which at stretches over breath-taking hills and valleys.

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Once the flat bits have been conquered, the route takes the riders up a pass called “Ouberg Pass”, loosely translated “Old Mountain Pass” This pass is a wide, solid surface, which is suitable for most vehicles. It does however have a very deceiving look to it and feels at times like a long serpent meandering up the valley, turn after turn you think you have reached the top when instead you are surprised with more winding climbs going up the valley.

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After you conquered the pass and head back down you still have to get over “Christo se Bult” (“Christo’s Hill”), which then ends off the main hills of The Hills Challenge. From there on it is mostly straight dirt roads that take you all the way back to the “Doringlaagte” campsite.  On the day of the race we caught a strong headwind, which made it difficult to reach good speeds on the way back to the campsite.

Overall “The Hills Challenge” is a great ride and I believe it is great ride for those busy training for Wines 2 Wales and for those who just want to experience something new.

The organizers impressed us with their warm reception of all the riders and some very nice goody bags at the start of the race. I would definitely recommend it for riders keen to  get in some good kilometers while experiencing the country side.

To the team of The Hills Challenge: Thank you again it was a great ride, and thank you for all the hard work that went into the marking, organizing and riding up and down on your motor bikes making sure the riders were all right.

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Shawn

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Shawn got on his first bike at the age of 7, a BMX which later was upgraded to a 5 speed. Mountain biking soon followed and has been a passion ever since. Shawn enjoys exploring new places and new trails and is passionate about showing people the joys of mountain biking and the outdoors and in so doing taking people out on the trails. Shawn also heads Lochtec Innovations for the last 8 years.

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