The country's largest MTB festival is just over a week away and the popular 40 km aQuellé Half Marathon has received a major facelift from talented trail builder Hylton Turvey in time for the 2014 Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival that takes place at the Karkloof Club on Sunday, 11 May.
The route has taken on a whole new identity in 2014 and with a number of interesting changes and after the same start and initial climb the riders will be treated to an entirely different route as they wind their way through the Karkloof.
"The 40kms Route starts the same as last year as this is the best way to get well over 1000 cyclists out of the Club and onto the trails with the least amount of backup," Hancock mentioned. "Those who have ridden the 40km before will recognise some familiar sections of the track. We continue over the district road and start the first real climb of the day – not too difficult and winding through the plantations.
"At the top they will be rewarded with great views over the grassland and further away, the Drakensberg. Then it is straight into "Zilla" and the first taste of Hylly's (Turvey) famous single track!" Hancock mentioned excitedly.
The route then changes from previous years with a bridge that takes the riders on 'Derek's Bridge' and then heads into a section of the course that might seem quite simple but Hancock believes that it could be a little more difficult than they could initially expect.
"Derek's Divide is a beautiful section of single track through pine trees that leads into 'Eagles Ridge' along the banks of a river.
"Although this section looks flat, cyclists will find themselves a bit out of breath here. We then continue into 'Kariba' and 'Mitch Ditch' – a lovely flowing part of the ride," he added.
The course then shifts into a split section with two options for the riders as Turvey has provided riders with an easy and difficult option.
"The easy track is down the 'Fire Hawk' climb – a very nice flowing downhill or for the braver riders the difficult 'Syd Vicious' options takes one over a few 'cheeky bits' and over a few 'baby's heads' – both option are very rideable and both will leave you with a big smile, but 'Syd Vicious' is definitely the more technical option!" Hancock said.
The course really comes into its own as the track changes and the berms become a major feature for riders as Turvey has placed in a few surprises for the riders as they head towards the end of the trail and with a view of the Karkloof Falls the riders will be treated to some beautiful views as they head for the finish.
"After these two sections re-join the new trail continues to wind through the plantations before popping out at a small water crossing. A gentle climb will bring the cyclists to "Sam's Slide" and the fantastic "Flow-Ry-Me" - with a lot of berms!
"There is a short climb up to the airfield but riders are rewarded some more great trail as they take on "Bombarday" – with everything one could ask for in a trail packed into one section – switch backs, berms, all single track and yes just a few rocks to roll over and to keep you honest and on your toes," the organiser mentioned.
Having taken on some exciting trail riders head back to the Karkloof Club where they started and Hancock is confident that riders will be satisfied by the time they reach the finish of the 40km half marathon.
"The aQuelle 40km Half Marathon will leave you a bit tired, but totally exhilarated!
"The 650m of climbing is broken up into easy sections mostly on jeep track to allow for easy passing. The new sections of the route will leave you with a huge smile, you will be challenged by some section but the route as a whole is definitely manageable for the weekend regular," he concluded.
Both the organisers and sponsors of the 2014 Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival are looking forward to yet another memorable mountain biking weekend as the wide array of events offers something unique to each of the MTB community. Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event's Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB). More info can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za
Photograph: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media