Riders story by mountain biker Brian Maynard
PE to Plett is a 4 day stage race that will take you through some of the most scenic sites the Eastern Cape has to offer, and you can enter either the Lite or Tough version. I of course entered the Tough One, and man did it turn out to be tough. The race also changes direction each year and this year it was from PE to Plett.
Stage 1: (Woodridge to Zuurbron)
The race started from the beautiful Woodridge school which also hosted us for the night in tented accommodation. The Start of the race would take us through the Van Stadens gorge and incorporated some of the nicest switch backs I have ever ridden. It also took us over the famous iron railroad bridge and also incorporated some jeep track along with dirt roads through pine forests. This stage covered 82km and has an elevation gain of 1680m before ending in Zuurbron. We were also very lucky when it came to the weather as most of the day was overcast and made for perfect riding weather.
Stage 2: (The Queen Stage. Zuurbron to Suiderland)
This stage started in the Zuurbron Bike Park and was mostly single track with a nasty climb as we exited the park. But as we exited and the single track turned into jeep track the head wind started, and man was it brutal. The wind would continue for the rest of the day and made for one of the toughest days I have spent on the bike in a long time. The only reprieve was when we descended into the Helgat. But as we exited the value the wind once again greeted us and remained as we made our way to Suiderland and ironically my first view of the power generating windmills which also provided a spectacually light show as the sun set. This was a tough day and really earned the right to be called the Queen stage. Many riders would switch from the Tough to the Lite after this stage. This stage was 70KM with a 1400m of elevation gain.
Stage 3: Suiderland to Tsitsikamma)
Stage 3 would introduce me to something called contour riding which followed the contour of the hill which made their way through the pine forests. This made for both spectacular and terrifying riding as the off camber sections had steep drop-offs on the left side. This section also had some punchy hills and after the queen stage I was really feeling it. But as we made our way to the Tsitsikamma falls, we passed through some indigenes forests which had a strange calming effect on both the body and mind. The trail then made its way to the cost and both my partner and I had to stop and admire the view for a few minutes before making our way to the end of the stage. The Tsitsikamma falls. This stage was 79km with a 1692 of elevation gain.
Stage 4: (Tsitsikamma falls to Nature’s Valley)
This stage without a doubt was my favour. This section started with a section through farms that look like they came straight out of a picture book. It then once again made its way to the coast, and after a short stop at a look out point. We made our way to the Bloukrans Pass. This for me was the highlite of the race. Once exiting the pass the race made its way to Pig’s head where the cost line once again greeted us, before descending to the finish at Nature’s Valley.
This stage was 7km with a 1000 of elevation gain.
In conclusion. This was a tough 4 day even and if you thinking of entering the Tough One, you need to be fit. This race although currently small in numbers will definitely grow in popularity as it never failed to deliver some enduring memories of the windy Easton Cape.
Images by Brian Maynard
Cover images by PE to Plett