Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 158 May 2023 | Page 54


A Route of


I was extremely lucky to garner an entry into the Luxliner Route 66 MTB Experience , but the questions immediately starting firing rapidly through my mind . Would this event live up to my expectations , for starters , but more importantly , could I actually do this ? I was about to find out .


’ m a former pro road cyclist and semi-pro mountain biker , but my last MTB stage race was well over a decade ago , and I am now very much a weekend warrior , advancing toward middle age and with a good few niggling injuries and health issues to go with it . So , when I was offered a media entry for the new-format Luxliner Route 66 MTB Experience in the first week of March , I couldn ’ t help wondering whether I could even do this ?
The Route 66 is touted as the ideal final preparation for those doing the Absa Cape Epic later in March , and is also the only UCI-listed MTB stage race in Gauteng . That makes the event a huge bonus for those based in Gauteng , who otherwise have to travel in order to do ‘ training races ’ for big events like the Epic .
Again , though , I had more questions ... How will the route stack up to its contemporaries in the Cape ? Can it even be used as a training event for that level of racing ? These and many other questions could only be answered by lining up at the Route 66 start , and seeing for myself . And I thought to myself , if this event answers all my questions , then Rob Jackson and the Leverage Corporation are onto something that could grow into the premier event on the Gauteng MTB calendar !
So Many Options
The genius of the event lies in its offering of various ways to do it , from the full four-day UCI stage race , to the three- , two- and even one-day MTB events , as well as a trail run , to boot . So , there ’ s definitely something for every level of rider , and it ’ s great that one has the choice . I wanted to see if the UCI stage race could pass muster as a ‘ proper ’ MTB stage race , so I took the plunge and arrived at the Asidlale Bike Park on Friday for the Prologue Time Trial of 30km . A nasty sinus infection had set in during the week , and that contributed further to me arriving wide-eyed , and to be honest , quite plainly terrified . I knew this would be a voyage into the unknown for me .
What followed was a rollercoaster-ride through the bike park , complete with steep climbs , flowing singletrack , loose-rocky descents picking your way through forests , and even an awesome jump line . It was surprisingly tough , and definitely not an ease-in to
54 The author ISSUE in 158 action | www , . modernathlete . co . za getting back in touch
with his riding roots