I was very fortunate to pick up a last minute entry to the event and scurried my way up to Knysna. The driving rain, hail and snow capped mountains made the trip all the more interesting. No matter the weather, the reputation this race has by word of mouth is only positive, and from what the route maps and profiles looked like it seemed to be three days of great riding and another awesome adventure.
Day 167km / 1420m ascent
Cold, wet and muddy is pretty much the best description I can give for the start of Day 1 of the RE:CM Knysna 200. Respect must go to all riders that finished the Day 1 as muddy conditions over the 75km route played havoc with drivetrains, brakes and traction. And in some cases senses of humour.
My partner and I suffered numerous technical issues including a broken chain in the first 5km’s, chain-suck throughout and a broken crank at 60km.
Bar the cold, the mud and the technical problems, Day 1 had to be one of the most beautiful routes I have ridden: kilometres of forestry road, forest single track and short sections of district road had the riders drenched in the richest greens of ferns and mosses under endless tree canopies.
The climbs out of the numerous valleys that we descended into on mud packed roads were slippery and rutted and the sharp bends made sure you had to have your wits about you at all times. Mud baths were a plenty as innocuous looking puddles ended up being a lot deeper than they looked and ate up front wheels throwing riders onto the wet trails.
The route was tougher and more demanding than I had expected. Based on the comments and chatter in the massage area after the race, many had the same opinion.
A big thanks must go to Rocky Mountain Bikes who loaned my partner a bike for Day 2 while his crank was being repaired.
Day 267km / 1580m ascent
One of the unique things about the RE:CM Knysna 200 is the different start locations each day. Day 2 started just outside Rheenendal around 20km’s outside Knysna.
Spirits were high and the temperature low as we set off straight up a 3km climb into the old Millwood gold mine area, after which a fast descent through the forest brought us to a river crossing. On the other side a steep and very slippery climb had us trudging through ankle deep mud. Unfortunately this was the beginning of the end of the race for me as I tweaked the Achilles injury I have been struggling with lately.
I managed to ignore the pain for a while as we were able to get back on our bikes again and headed up the side of a valley that forced us to hug the side as precarious drops threatened on the right. This beautiful piece of narrow single-track snaked its way up the side of the valley for an age until it popped out onto a jeep track section that had us speeding down into another valley over washouts and drainage ditches. At this point my Achilles was screaming at me and tightening the leg all the way up to the knee. The fast descent bottomed out and had us climbing up a 2km super steep incline that had many walking.
As we got to the top the first water point welcomed us after just 15 km’s. I briefly forgot about the pain and grabbed a cup or two of Hammer HEED then sped off down a flat section of jeep track.
The road started climbing and my Achilles started aching, 400 meters later I could no longer apply pressure to the pedal on the right. Sadly I watched my partner go on alone as I headed back to the water point and got a lift back to the race village. As bleak as I was, I still managed to appreciate the fun that was being had at the water point as the rest of the riders came through - it really is a much more relaxed part of the race to be in.
Thank you Jacques Brink from Knysna Cycle Works for the lift back to town.
Day 360km / 895m ascent
Warmer weather welcomed us to start of Day 3 at the Harkerville Forestry station around 20km outside Knysna. After the previous day's issue with my Achilles, the plan was to take a kilometre by kilometre approach to the day.
Paul Valstar(MC) started us off and immediately up a climb. After only two kilometres I was ready to turn back to the start because of pain but fortunately my partner talked me out of this and I carried on thinking that water point one would be the end for me. But 10 km’s in and I was having so much fun on the route I had mostly forgotten about the pain as we crossed through pine forests that led us onto jeep track that skirted the edges of cliff faces and the coast below.
Eventually we headed into narrow tree lined paths that bounced us over root systems that criss-crossed the paths and dropped us onto another short section of jeep track. Turning right into more single track, we sped in between trees and rocks, up short inclines and over sections of decked trails in the most insanely beautiful forest I have ever ridden.
Water point 1 met us at the end of the single track. There was no chance I was stopping now and we started climbing up more jeep track through low hanging trees, followed by fast winding descents which characterised the next 10 kilometres of the route.
I was starting to change my opinion about Day 1, Day 3 was even better.
A short section of grass trail that ran next to the N2 led us to more forestry road climbs. The descents after were now through pine forests that wound their way down into a valley; sharp corners and washouts made the pine needle covered tracks tricky at speed.
A final sharp climb though more pine forest led us to a district road which peaked out on to the spine of the mountain and the whole of Knysna was visible before us. An uncomfortable grassy trail led down the spine and had teeth chattering together until it dropped down into some pines. A short rooted technical drop onto the tar followed and a fast flat ride to Thesen Island and on to the finish.
The RECM Knysna 200 was very well organised event with an awesome, friendly atmosphere. It is still a relatively small race with a cap of 350 participants and a reasonable entry fee. This is an event that is sure to gain popularity and become one that is difficult to get an entry to in the future.
For more on Rob head over to his blog.
For more details on the RECM Knysna 200 go here: www.recmknysna200.co.za