Rugged & Beautiful racing – PwC Great Zuurberg Trek. What more can a mountain bike adventure lover ask for?

This is not an easy race. It’s not that the organisers go out to make it as hard as possible each year.  In fact they work damn hard to try smooth out the track but this is a region that doesn’t easily let you change it.  The rugged and unspoiled nature is where the beauty lies and it would be wrong to interfere too much. We love it as it is.  There are places for well groomed and swept tracks but the Zuurberg is not that place!

Great Zuurberg Trek at Zuurberg Mountain Village
Zuurberg Mountain Village (photo credit Warren Elsom)

If we have to isolate one aspect of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek that makes it stand out among many top class stage races in South Africa it must be the limited numbers.  It is not that we don’t like big events but if you ever get the chance to experience the race setting at The Addo Zuurberg Mountain Village you would understand why.

At the race village there is no special treatment for top brass officials or top ranked Pro riders.  Not that they don’t deserve it but everyone gets the same classy treatment. Even the tented accommodation makes you feel special with real beds & down duvets. A tent that is high enough to stand in with chairs an all!

All meals are served at the hotel and no complaints in this department!  A nice addition were quality wines from Du Toitskloof Wines and beer from Devils Peak brewing company that went down really nicely after each tough stage!

Great Zuurberg Trek, 1st placed ladies, Anriette Schoeman & Samantha Sanders
1st placed ladies, Anriette Schoeman & Samantha Sanders going hard!

PwC Great Zuurberg Trek Routes

Each year the routes change and new single track sections are added.  Day one and three are similar in elevation and distance. Hard but manageable. Day one drops down into the picturesque Sundays River Valley, crisscrossing citrus orchards and the Addo Elephant National Park.

The last day is Mountain Bike heaven with most of the route in and around Hayterdale Trails. Going at speed while swinging your bike under you and pushing the limits is a perfect way to end of this event. The only section that hurts on this day is the final climb up The Zuurberg pass.

Great Zuurberg Trek, fun on the single track with Jugens Uys followed by Marco Joubert
Great Zuurberg Trek, fun on the single track! Jurgens Uys, followed by Marco Joubert

The Queen stage on day two that takes you to the Klein Karoo and back is tough and hard on the body. One of the spectacular views on this day is when you ride and see the vast Karoo on one side and the distant Indian Ocean on the other.

Some of the downhill sections are super challenging when taken at speed. But slow the pace down and there is no problem getting to the bottom safe.

There is a really good mix of terrain. Some hard rocky and bumpy climbs near Ann’s Villa, followed by beautiful sections on the plato and in the mountains.

Great Zuurberg Trek, day 1
Great Zuurberg Trek, day 1 (photo credit Warren Elsom)

The scenery is absolutely amazing

This is not a race where you want to put your head down and race to the line. You have to look around and suck in the beauty.  Andrew Mclean makes no secret that it is one of his favorite events.  His opinion is that there is a shift at stage events and riders focus less on the race aspect and more on riding the route to enjoy the experience out there. The PwC Zuurberg Trek is perfect for riders with this attitude.

 Don’t get a false sense of security by deciding you will just approach it as a ride.  It is a tough ride and if you don’t prepare and train properly it will bite you back big time, even if riding at a leisurely pace..

Great Zuurberg Trek, race winners
Great Zuurberg Trek race winners, Adrian Louw followed by Andrew Hill (photo credit Warren Elsom)

Dual Suspension vs Hard Tail

Some of the really stubborn riders might still want to convince us that a hard tail is fine for stage racing. For sure there are events where it would be fine but it is not going to work at the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek. The terrain is really rugged and challenging and as you get tired you can feel every bump from the saddle, right up your spine into your head. If you are twenty, fit, strong and a bit stupid go for that hard tail. For the rest we suggest invest in a good dual suss and ride with a smile.

Great Zuurberg Trek, tough racing with smiles
Great Zuurberg Trek, tough racing with smiles (photo credit Warren Elsom)

Hat’s off to race winners, Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw winning this tough race.

Young Marco Joubert and Jurgens Uys were 2nd and Andrew Mclean and Joel Stransky had an exceptional ride finishing 3rd after a tough three days.

Great Zuurberg Trek, overall winners
Great Zuurberg Trek, overall winners

There were lots of positive feedback like this twitter feed from Andrew Mclean and partner Joel Stransky, both still racing like youngsters!

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Detailed results, stage and overall