Trail athletes strive to keep their events green and community-focussed

As they prepare for an influx of mountain bikers and trail runners for the events that make up the FNB Drak Adventure Weekend on 19 and 20 January, organisers have increased their efforts to minimise the impact the races have on the natural environment, and to maximise the benefit for the local communities and charities.

With the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB in partnership with FNB race now sold out and running a waiting list, and the shorter Challenge event filling up fast, organisers of the cycle are at pains to ensure that they leave the Southern Drakensberg countryside that they traverse unaffected by the weekend’s activity.

Watering points will no longer stock plastic sachets of water and riders will drink from cups and fill their water bottles from bulk water containers at each table, while all the new sections of trail that have been factored into the race this year use existing paths or cattle tracks.

“While the Sani Spoors trails are ridden year round, we have access to much of the trails we use for the races for one weekend of the year, thanks to the support of the local landowners,” said race organiser Derek Christie.

“We have a responsibility to make sure there is no pollution of the area from the mountain bike rides and trail runs, and that we don’t create any soil erosion problems by cutting new trails where we can instead use existing paths or cattle tracks or roads.

“As an event we have always been ‘green’, and every year we take stock of how we do things to see where we can improve on being environmentally-friendly,” he added.

The GWK Run The Rivers Trail Runs in partnership with FNB will adhere to the same guidelines as they share many of the trails and raceday infrastructure with the mountain bikers.

Both events are committed to including local community organisations to ensure the they can benefit for the massive influx of athletes and visitors to the region.

One of the main beneficiaries is the Restmount Children’s Home, which is at the start of the races. This facility offers holidays in the Southern Drakensberg to underprivileged and needy children.

The Noah’s Ark school runs a vehicle shuttle service that raises vital funds to support their work, and the nearby Pevenesy Place Cerebral Palsy commune also contributes to the event by selling Ola ice creams.

Local community organisations like the Marshall Club and Sani Tourism also get involved, manning watering points and helping with race logistics.

“These events mean a lot to the Underberg and Himeville community,” Christie added. “Their appeal lies in the appeal of the region as a world heritage site and we strive to make sure as many community organisations benefit from it, and we protect and support our natural environment at the same time.”

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