Mountain bikers and trail runners gear up for Drak classics

Underberg – The trails and single track around the Southern Drakensberg will come alive this weekend as avid mountain bikers take on the Euro Steel Drak Descent and share the uMzimkhulu River valley with the trail runners taking part in the GWK Run The River trail runs.

The race has quickly developed a cult following and the full MTB race has been sold out for a number of weeks and running a waiting list, with many riders opting to ride the shorter distances on offer in the Euro Steel Drak MTB Challenge to avoid missing out on the fun of the FNB Drak Adventure weekend activities.

Andrew Hill (Team Darkhorse Wheels) will be back to defend the title he won in a close scrap with Julian Jessop last year. The Hillcrest ace will have his hands full this year however as Ballito racer Tyronne White who is in great racing form at the moment, has also lodged an entry for the race, along with his Ballito Bicycle Company team mate Andrew Johnson.

Add to that mix the likes of Andrew Houston, Per Lofstrand and the evergreen Ewan Cochrane, and there will be little margin for error at the front of the men’s race.

Houston’s girlfriend Bianca Haw tops the women’s race entry, and is sizing up a very busy weekend. Not only will she be keen to try and bag the 2019 women’s crown, but she and Houston are also organising the accommodation, camping and hospitality at Glencairn Farm for the hundreds of mountain bikers that have booked into the iconic venue for the weekend.

Haw trains extensively in the area and knows the trails better than any other female riders in the field, giving her a distinct advantage on her home turf.

The women’s field, interestingly, includes Heidi Dalton, best known as an accomplished road racer but she is also a very skilled mountain biker and a tenacious competitor.

North Coast veteran Nathalie Bergstrom will also start at the front of the women’s race with her trademark energetic enthusiasm.

Day One of the Drak Descent now covers 41km with 611m of climbing and 750m of descent, shadowing the uMzimkhulu River from Restmount Children’s home to the finish at Sinister Pool at the Swartberg Road bridge, embracing some of the popular single track used by the Sani Spoors.

The expanded second stage now starts at Glencairn Farm, the home of the KAP sani2c, and takes in exciting new contour track through the Superbowl before climbing to link with the Sani Spoors Jackal Joll with its sweeping descent through the plantations above the Bonsma’s dairy Farm. Stage Two covers 47km now including 619 metres of ascent and 770m of descent.

Sharing much of the same trails, the runners get moving earlier in the day, starting from Rainbow Farm on the Drakensberg Gardens Road, taking on either a 25km or 12km course on the first day and a second stage of 16km or 8km for the shorter version of the race.

The second stage has quickly developed a cult reputation as it starts and finishes at the race finish at Early Mist Farm and traverses the paths above the Thrombi Gorge of the uMzimkhulu River, offering spectacular views for the runners.

Local ace Philip Shezi won the trail run overall last year, appropriately shifting the spotlight to a cell of local runners that includes Comrades icon and Bulwer based star Bongmusa Mthembu. Shezi will be back to defend his title.

The event draws a massive crowd to The Underberg/Himeville area that is hosting the FNB Drak Adventure Weekend that includes the N3TC Drak Challenge and the Saturday afternoon FNB Drak Music Experience concert headlined by The Parlotones.

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