Having been in the mountain biking arena for many years – on and off the bike since the early 1990’s, supporting friends and my husband at many events from the first MTB Nationals in Sedgefield in 1992 to the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic – I finally got the opportunity to participate in my very first mountain bike stage race, the 2017 BUCO Dr Evil Classic. Although I prefer to refer to this as an experience or an event, and not a race. I wasn’t racing anywhere at any breakneck speed.

Back in 2014, I was four days away from doing my planned first stage race, the Berg & Bush, when I took an unfortunate tumble on my local trail on my last training ride and shattered my wrist. The three-year journey from this point to my actual first stage race was tougher than I ever could have imagined.  But enough of my sad story. Why the Dr Evil Classic?

Tired, but stoked to be finished with Stage 1

The organisers of the Berg & Bush had most kindly given me an invitation to come to their event as soon as I was ready, so I finally felt I had the energy to tackle that event in 2017.  I had been training consistently with that as my goal when my husband said “why don’t we do the Dr Evil Classic as a warm up, a bit of a tester, before Berg & Bush?”.

I was hesitant, as the name insinuates that this is not a pleasant event. After all, I’m all about having fun on my bike and enjoying the experience. Eventually I thought, well I am going to need to be fit enough to finish a three-day stage event in October, it will at least be a solid three days of training.

So off we went, driving from Joburg to Plettenberg Bay the day before the event. We arrived at the local school, with 15 minutes to spare before registration closed on Wednesday 20th September. “It’s all part of the journey,” I kept saying.  By then the registration was pretty quiet. Were efficiently assisted with our registration and treated to a hearty home style dinner, which is part of the entry package.

Due to the nature of our business, our accommodation had been arranged by Plettenberg Bay Tourism, and it was perfect. A log cabin in the woods at The Crags.

Our verandah in the beautiful The Crags residential reserve

Stage 1 – 73km with about 1200m ascent

After our first night’s sleep, which came easily despite the nerves, we were up early and on our way to the start. I knew I had the best riding partner there is, so on race day 1, I felt quite calm. I knew there was a lot of climbing and it would be my longest ride on a MTB to date, but we were in no rush and there was no pressure. That pretty much sums up how the event feels as a whole – no pressure. No pretences and nothing was a problem for anyone on the organising team.

The trails on day one were not tough and comprised lots of jeep track and gravel roads, much of it through some of the most beautiful planted and indigenous forests. The water points were always a welcome sight, with lots of friendly faces and banter. There was never a shortage of supplies either. I crossed the finish line with a smile and a sense of achievement. As is the format, after all three stages, we were treated to a hearty home-style lunch. All the riders get to sit together, chat about their day in the saddle and enjoy the grub while prize giving  takes place.

The massive fires of 2017 had such a devastating effect on the Plett and Knysna area. So sad

Stage 2 – 38km with about 960m ascent

This was the toughest day for me, as the climbs where a little steeper. Even when I’m fit, I ‘m a reluctant climber… But with the distance being relatively short and the trails uncomplicated, I managed just fine. Another morning enjoying the beautiful scenery and hospitality of Plettenberg Bay.

We rode in places that were remote and stunning!

Stage 3 – 47km with about 900m ascent

There had been a little bit a rain overnight, but it didn’t dampen the vibe as we eagerly started Stage 3. This day had the most singletrack and the most breath-taking views as it took us through the Harkerville Forest and the cliff-tops above the ocean. Besides a few slippery roots in one of the forest sections, the trails were fun and stimulating.  I even found myself becoming a little competitive on this stage due to another mixed couple riding near us. Clearly, I still had enough energy left to pedal a bit harder!

The final day saw us riding along the coast through the Harkerville Forest. Incredible scenery!

And before I could even think twice, my first three-day stage race was complete, and I loved every pedal stroke. I would recommend the BUCO Dr Evil Classic to any mountain biker who has a moderate fitness level and high appreciation for natural beauty. The routes chosen by the infamous Dr Evil – Leon Evans, are more aligned with his personality than his nickname – really cool, easy going and even gentle (in mountain bike trail terms).

Not your average race number board. Not your average race!

Keen to find out more, or to enter the 2018 edition? Head over here: drevilclassic.co.za

Joanne Badenhorst