Indeed, The U is just one of those events. This year the fourth instalment takes place from 18 to 20 October. We’ve put in leave for the Friday (thanks boss) and are once again making a long weekend of it.
Taken leave and entered already? You know it - with only 200 entries (now open here), entries fly.
The big reason that the three-day event on those most hallowed private trails in the Piket-Bo-Berg sells out so fast, is the riding: In some sections it’s almost impossible to comprehend how the trails were imagined, let alone crafted. Criss-crossing the hills above the race village, the trails weave audaciously over, through, between, and under rocks to create a near perfect flow on terrain which quite often shouldn’t be rideable.
Make no mistake - it’s no manicured bike park (or walk-in-the-park, for that matter) the trails are physically and technically challenging, but generous in their rewards. On last year’s event we often found ourselves – between the frequent rushes of stoke and fragrances of Buchu – wondering ‘who on earth was bold enough to build out here?’
(Well, you’ll get to meet the trail builders and their crew at the race. Even share a beer or two).
This hand-crafted 100-kilometre web of trails on the Mouton’s Valley and Bugler’s Post farms are usually the private playground of the landowners and a few very select friends. The rest of us get to ride it on only two weekends a year, when the farmers open these to the public for the one-day Piket-Bo-Berg Cycle Challenge and the three-day The U for the benefit of the local community.
And, if that was the only drawcard, it would’ve been more-than-enough reason to enter. Of course it’s not: “The overall package is pretty hard to beat,” says Oli ‘The Pinner’ Munnik, who goes back year after year. “It’s a very well-rounded, family-run offering. And, the setting (of the race village) is quite a magical setting - looking out over the dam,” he says.
“Then, to go off up the hill and into the mountains and test yourself physically, only to come back and be treated so well in the afternoon and evening is pretty special. You know, they (the organisers) just excel in all aspects - even the road to get there is flippen amazing.”
According to Pinner, the trails have been built to be challenging but not impossible. “All the obstacles and sections are rideable. You never really have to take your foot out, but correct gearing and having a good following distance is crucial to flow up there.”
Oli also recommends not going out too hard too quickly because they are long days and putting in some time at the seconding tables. “Those are quite phenomenal and it’s worth spending a good few minutes there getting yourself acquainted with the strawberries and biltong and even maybe share a beer with your riding mate.”
“And then the fresh, export quality, fruit at the finish line!”
Those biltong, fruit and beer tables will be stocked from 18-20 October. The event will once again kick off on the Friday afternoon with a short 7.9 km prologue to get in tune with the trails and set your seeding for the first true stage on Saturday. But take a long weekend, like us.
Then, both Saturday and Sunday (Episodes 1 & 2) are around 50km long with approximately 1300m of climbing each. As Pinner mentioned, don’t let the distances fool you, though. There are few restful kilometres in those figures, but that’s a good thing - did we mention it is nearly all singletrack.
Want to know more? Read our race report from 2018, here. And, if last year was amazing, this year promises to be even more spectacular with the support of some premium sponsors: The event is proudly supported by Venturescapes as presenting sponsor, Specialized as our Bike & Tech Zone sponsor, Enjoy as our Kit Sponsor, Land Rover as our Vehicle Sponsor and BikeHub as media partner.
The U MTB Stage Race
The fourth edition of The U is scheduled for 18-20 October and is open to 200 riders only. It features +-101km over the 2.5 days with some 2 900m of total ascent. Riders get to enjoy every piece of singletrack on the mountain, with the Friday, being a 7.9km XCO-course style prologue. Saturday is Episode One: 46.1km, 1 500m ascent, extremely challenging. Sunday is Episode Two: 46.1km, 1 300m ascent, fast and technical.
The event is proudly supported by Venturescapes as presenting sponsor, Specialized as our Bike & Tech Zone sponsor, Enjoy as our Kit Sponsor, Land Rover as our Vehicle Sponsor and Bike Hub as media partner.