Savanna Origin of Trails Stage One delivers a taste of MTB heaven in Stellenbosch

origin of trails

The Savanna Origin of Trails’ 10th year celebration got off to a cool start on Saturday 18 November 2023 with Stage One of SA’s MTB Party of the year treating riders to a vast network of world-class and exclusive trails in and around the picturesque town of Stellenbosch.

Despite his initial intention to approach this year’s Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience Marathon with the aim of enjoyment rather than racing, defending champion Luyanda Thobigunya (Idas Valley, Stellenbosch) found himself standing atop the podium once again. Reflecting on the event, he commented, “The route was good. We had some competition from the road bike guys. They chased us on the flat sections, but we recovered on the single tracks and on the downhills. I was excited to cross the finish line first. I would recommend the Savanna Origin of Trails to my friends because it’s our home ground.”

Stage One of the Marathon featured a +-50km route with a total ascent of 1250m. The terrain offered a mix of hard-packed open climbs, well-groomed flowing trails, and a variety of technical sections to challenge riders. Notable highlights included breathtaking views at Lanzerac, traversing the Eerste River trails, and navigating the infamous G-Spot. Riders also encountered new and exciting sections, such as a brief single track at Lanzerac and the creatively crafted bridges by local route builder Kim Lord at Dornier.

Jonathan Elcock (Newlands) was the first rider home in the Half Marathon. “I took part in my first Savanna Origin of Trails last year. I really enjoyed it and had to come back. This is my first event after being in a car accident at the beginning of the year. It feels good to be back on the trails and I’m really enjoying this event again. The route was good, well-marked, well-marshalled and all-round good fun. I’m looking forward to the MTB Party tonight. I probably won’t have a huge night but will join in the festivities.”

There was a tussle up front in the Women’s Category of the Half Marathon but defending champion Jackie Lochner (Stellenbosch) was not giving up without a fight and safely secured the Stage One victory. “The stage was fun, and technical. Some sections were flooded and muddy, so if you picked the wrong line, you were out. There were three of us that raced together the whole way. It was hectic because you’re always pushing and can’t relax. I always come out to have fun, but it’s nice to push yourself. This is the mountain bike party of the year, why wouldn’t you come back. My plan for tomorrow is to start off slower and go hell for leather at the end.”

Anne Pienaar (Karoo) took on the challenge of the Half Marathon in the Ebike Category. At 69 years young, she humorously declared, “I only ride an Ebike. I don’t ride normal bikes anymore because I’m old. I don’t like practicing so much, and the Ebike allows me to still ride events. It was amazing riding Stage One on my Liv Ebike. I wouldn’t say it was a breeze as there were some tough hills, but the bike makes life much easier. This is the first time that I’ve ever ridden here in the mountains. It’s amazing.”

Stage One of the Half Marathon showcased a diverse +-31km route with a total ascent of 680m. Tailored for weekend warriors who prefer less technical riding, the event caters to a range of fitness levels. While not demanding an exceptionally high level of fitness, participants were encouraged by the organizing team to put in the training to get the most out of the event. The stage primarily comprised farm roads, with minimal flat sections. Stage highlights included the iconic floating bridge at Mont Marie and the scenic trails at Dornier.

PUB RIDE and Rider Party: The excitement of Stage One continues into the evening with a Pub Ride kicking off at 16:00 from Coetzenburg Stellenbosch University. Riders will embark on a journey to three of Stellenbosch’s beloved pubs— Cognito Restaurant, De Akker Pub and Casa Cerveza. Drinks will be on offer compliments of Heineken Beverages, along with an array of delectable snacks.

NEXT UP: Stage Two / Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience

Date:Sunday 19 November 2023
Start and Finish Venue:Coetzenburg Stellenbosch University
Start Time:08:00
Event Format:Two-Day Stage Race for individual riders
Categories & Distances:Full Marathon Age:  18+
 Distance Day 2:  +-48km
 Half Marathon Age:  18+
 Distance Day 2:  +-36km

Charity Support: The Savanna Origin of Trails proudly supports the Stellenbosch Trail Fund (STF), a registered non-profit organisation (NPO) entirely funded by donations from local trail users and corporate sponsors. Since 2011, STF’s aim has been to create, improve and maintain hiking, biking and running trails in and around the Greater Stellenbosch

Dress Up Day: In honour of the Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience’s 10th anniversary in November, event organizers are spicing things up by calling on riders to ‘dress for the occasion’ on Sunday, 19 November (the final stage of the event). It’s not a proper celebration without some exciting prizes, so the two riders with the most creative outfits (one male and one female) will each take home a whopping R10,000 and 10 cases of Savanna. Read more here:

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