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Darryn Stow on his way to second place in the Sub Vet men's race. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer.

The track at Bloemendal is markedly different from its predecessors in the series. Where the challenge in the tracks at Slanghoek and Rhebokskloof lay in negotiating slippery, dusty, washed out, and rutted trails, Bloemendal offered a more manicured man-made experience. The light rain on Friday did wonders to firm up the dry and dusty trails.

The course includes the famed Lombard's Terra descent, the highlight of which is a sizeable gap jump which gave me sleepless nights last year. This year, we weren’t able to make it for course practice on Friday, and I chose to play it safe, and get some sleep: opting for the chicken run.

We arrived in time for a quick early morning lap: enough to get an idea of what was on the course, although not enough to really iron out any issues. The rain had left the dirt in perfect condition, and the rocks were slippery from the rain, but the track looked set to dry up as soon as the sun made an appearance.

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The XCO events develop skills at an early age. Photo credit: Tania Horsford Photography.

The course started by weaving its way through the vineyard and onto a jeep track climb, as is customary. This serves to seed the field quite quickly and limits congestion on the single track. In the ladies race, all the groups started together, and it was great fun having a bigger group than usual to ride in, and the Elite ladies to chase.

The climb turns into a single file row between vineyards, before dropping down through a stubble field, making it an excellent place to attack and gain a lead before the descent. The subsequent awkward left turn and single track didn’t leave many opportunities for overtaking.


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There is always action on the course for spectators to watch. Photo credit: Nicole Dale Kuys

Climbing up past the feed zone, the gradient gets steep, and there was never much air left in my lungs for banter with the spectators. After this point, things really got interesting: a singletrack switchback climb, liberally scattered with rock gardens waiting to catch up anyone not concentrating, or running out of power.

Popping out at the top of the climb, there was a short section of jeep track, another vital overtaking opportunity for anyone looking to attack before the long descent down Lombard's Terra.

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Graeme Kuys tackles the berms on Lombard's Terra. Photo credit: Nicole Dale Kuys.

The descent is the highlight of the course, it snakes down past the feed and technical support zone with beautiful, fast bermed corners and jumps of different sizes and difficulty, so you can choose your challenges and build up confidence on the smaller jumps. Being in sight of the feed zone means there is always encouragement and a friendly word on the way down.

The last climb on the course was a bit of a killer, short and relatively steep, on a rough loose surface. Another excellent spot for an exciting attack: in full view of the feed zone, before dropping down to the BMX section and heading out on the next lap.

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The course offers a rewarding mix of terrain, with comfortable B-lines and challenging A-lines. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer.

Aside from the exhilaration of racing, supporting and watching the racing is the next best thing. The feed zone at Bloemendal offers a nearly 360 degree view of the course, and it is possible to watch the racing unfold in real time: making you feel a part of the action.

For those that don’t want to walk up to the feed zone in the vineyards, the start finish area offers a view of the BMX section and all the sprint finish action your heart could desire. Bloemendal will be the venue for the Western Cape XCO Champs on 27 May, and is an inviting course for first-timers wanting to try the discipline.

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Most of the action is visible from the feed and technical support zone. Photo credit Nicole Dale Kuys.

The final round of the Subaru Cape Town WC XCO MTB Series will take place at Rhebokskloof on 27 April. You can read more about the second event of the series, and the course at Rhebokskloof here.