Over the last six years the Old Mutual joBerg2c has earned a reputation as the best ride to do if you want to see South Africa’s countryside. From the mielie fields of the Northern Free State to the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, riding in the foothills of Drakensberg and eventually popping out at the coast in Scottburgh, the daily scenery changes make the Old Mutual joBerg2c one of the country’s most unique mountain biking experiences.

Local riders have bought into the event’s “journey” philosophy, but so too have an increasing number of foreign mountain bikers. This year there are 110 foreign entrants, representing 31 countries from around the world.

ccs-62657-0-69064800-1461590212.jpg[captionRiders line up for the start of the 2016 Old Mutual joBerg2c, among them 110 international cyclists representing 31 countries from around the world. Credit: Em Gatland[/caption]
“joBerg2c is that rare experience that tests people, but also encourages them to enjoy their riding environment,” says Bandile Mngoma, Sponsorship Manager at Old Mutual. “I don’t think there is a better way to see South Africa and to get to know South Africans – every race village is different and filled with different South African personalities. The communities embrace the riders and in turn the riders keep coming back. I honestly believe that it’s the combination of the challenge, the daily change in race environment and the warm hospitality of South Africans that makes this ride so appealing for our foreign visitors.”

Six friends from Italy have made the journey to South Africa to ride from Johannesburg to Scottburgh. There are 21 Brits, 14 Swiss, plus riders from Botswana, France, Belgium, Slovenia and Australia.

13 Danish riders came over as one big team. Tobias Flath and Joachim Dietrich are two of the Danish contingent who are already enjoying the bottomless coffee and big smiles in the race village. “A friend of ours used to live in South Africa,” says Flath. “He did the race, came back to Denmark and talked us all into doing it. We didn’t need much encouragement because it sounded like a lot of fun. We had a good time today and can’t wait for the rest of the ride.”

There are also two mountain bikers who have come all the way from Alaska – an American state, of course, but it sounds more exotic when you call them Alaskan instead of American. There are other Americans participating too, one of whom is 24-hour MTB World Champion, Sonya Looney, riding in the mixed category alongside Japan’s Yuki Ikeda. Looney is making her MTB race debut in South Africa after originally having entered the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, only to pull out after her partner was injured before the event.

“I found out about the joBerg2c after a South African mountain bike magazine – Tread – tweeted me,” says Looney. “The magazine said this was the ride to do, and I heard that the route was amazing, and that’s just the kind of riding I like to do. For me, the ride has to be all about the route. Today was very laid back, and the people were so friendly. Everyone, the riders and the people helping out on the route, were so happy to be out there, and that makes you enjoy your ride even more.”

Another foreign debutant at the joBerg2c is French rider Frederich Ischard. He heard about the ride from a friend and was sold on the story of the route, the changing landscape and the race spirit at the joBerg2c. With only one day gone there is still much to come, but Ischard is already feeling the good vibrations. “It’s exciting to be here and to take on the nine days,” he says. “The stories about this race really appealed to me and while I haven’t seen much of the route, the people have been fantastic. There was so much happening at the water points that I didn’t want to leave.”

Day 2 of the Old Mutual joBerg2c will take riders from Frankfort to Reitz, a 93km ride with the daily highlight being the Boerbull Descent – a 10km flowing singletrack section just before riders reach the race village.