The Berg and Bush starts on the 4th October with a wicked line up of pros. The Descent, which is the “racier” of the three Berg & Bush events, starts this Friday (4 October) with a 94km stage from Windmill Farm on Sterkfontein Dam to Em’seni race village. Along the way, riders will tackle iconic Berg & Bush trails like Great Wall My China, Solly’s Folly and Garden of Eden.
Day two of the Descent is a 70km bushveld blitz, while the final day is a 50km sprint for the racing snakes – with the world-famous climb up Spioenkop coming in the final 16km. Once at the top of Spioenkop, riders will enjoy a fast and flowing 14km singletrack descent all the way to the Em’seni finish line.
The elite women’s field sees McDougall and DeGroot join forces for Team Dormakaba.
“The riding at Berg & Bush is fantastic with really fun trials and routes. It has a wonderful race village vibe and I am looking forward to it,” says De Groot De Groot, a perennial winner on the South African cycling circuit, recently finished third in the elite women’s race at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships held in Grächen, Switzerland. It was an impressive performance considering that in January this year she underwent surgery to correct blood-flow issues.
Berg & Bush remains a highlight of my season. Not only is this due to the sublime trails, but the vibe that the Green family create within the village is amazing. There is an exciting energy at the event that I just cannot describe, but it certainly stands out and gets me all geared up for it as well,” says McDougall.
Dormakaba’s will be going head to head with the super successful Team Galileo Risk, Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill have had an amazing year and work well together as a unit. The women’s racing should see some great racing.
In the men’s race, the rising stars of Valley Electrical Titan Racing – Rossouw Bekker and Marc Fourie – will hope to make an impact a long way from their Stellenbosch base. Earlier this year, and at the age of just 19, Bekker started the team to tackle races around South Africa. As a riding pair, Bekker and Fourie have enjoyed a successful 2019, finishing consistently at the top of the field in various races. Could Berg & Bush be their first major success as a pair in 2019?
Also in the men’s field – Nico Bell and Wessel Botha (NAD), and Dean van Dyk and 2018 solo winner Luke Chambers (Bluff Meat Supply). Julian Jessop will tackle the event as a solo rider. In the mixed category, Darren and Candice Lill will be the outright favourites.
While the three days of racing will be intense, the most spectator-friendly part of the racing will take place outside of the Berg & Bush Descent’s three days. The ever-popular Spioenkop Sprint will once again be happening after the second day of racing. Up for grabs? R100 000 in prize money, including R20 000 each for the winning male and female rider.
Over the years at Berg & Bush, the Spioenkop Sprint has become a thrilling event in its own right. Short, sharp and utterly breathless, the Sprint is a 2km dash from the bottom of Spioenkop mountain to the top. It’s frenetic and fun racing, leaving the winner completely shattered after the effort, but R20 000 richer.
Previous winners of the Sprint include the likes of Gert Heyns and Matthys Beukes, while in the women’s Sprint Robyn de Groot, Candice Lill and Sam Sanders have all stumbled away with full pockets from their exhausting efforts.
Last year Wessel Botha won the Sprint in a time of 4 minutes and 33 seconds, with Amy McDougall winning the women’s Sprint in 6 minutes 5 seconds.
“We are looking forward to seeing everyone this Thursday for the start of the 2019 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush,” says race organiser Roxanne Green. “The trails are in great condition, the race crew has been hard at work packing goodie bags, and the race village is waiting with open arms. We can’t wait to see everyone on our trails.”
images by Em Gatland
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