Former Springbok wing Breyten Paulse, Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling and rally driver Gugu Zulu added a touch of celebrity glamour to the field of almost a thousand riders who took part in the inaugural Kia Val de Vie Estate Mountain Bike Challenge in the Paarl-Franschhoek valley on Sunday.
The 60km race, which crossed 21 Western Cape wine farms, was won by Charles Keey of Team Blend Properties. He claimed line honours ahead of Team USN rider Jacques Rossouw and Adriaan Louw of Team Contego.
Phelia Burger was victorious in the women’s race, followed by Desiree Loubser and Tandi Kitching.
In the 30km event, junior riders Louw Kriel and Catherine Colyn took the men’s and women’s titles for Team Contego/Sludge’ish and bizhub-FCF respectively.
Toks ‘n Tjops presenter Paulse said he had been very impressed with the organisation, the vibe and the “lekker track”.
“It’s a nice family outing and was very well-supported. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and the scenery was fantastic – so, all in all, it was a very successful first event.”
An experienced rider, Paulse easily finished the shorter distance but the Capetonian’s co-host Janina Oberholzer found her first off-road race a little tougher, coming in at the back of the field.
“Shame, she was broken,” he said. “It was a tough day for Janina but I’m proud of her for finishing.”
The show’s namesake and anchor, former Springbok prop Toks van der Linde, was also seen sampling the local wines and chatting with the farmers along the route.
Paulse joked that his aim was to get Van der Linde to eventually ride the race. “We’re busy building a four-wheel bike for Toks; at 190kg, he wouldn’t fit on a normal one.”
Race organiser Wynand de Villiers, of ASG Events, seconded his plan. “We might have to build Toks a special course too, maybe just take him around the polo field and leave it at that.”
According to De Villiers, the participants’ lighthearted approach to the day was exactly what organisers had hoped for. “I don’t want this event to get too serious because it’s just so much fun!
“Most riders stopped for about 10 minutes at each waterpoint to socialise and sample wine with the farmers. It was more like a bazaar than a bike race.”
However, good riding remained a priority with exciting racing upfront and a well-marked off-road course that did not include any district road, said De Villiers.
“A couple of people came across the line and said it was the best race they’d ridden in the Western Cape, so we’re very chuffed with that.”
He said the local community had pulled together to make the race happen. “We’ve made so many friends here – it was just a great time and an absolutely unique event.”
On a serious note, De Villiers said the local Rotary and Vrede Foundation for young cancer sufferers would also benefit from the race.
The event was the second fixture in the new Kia series, which includes the Walkerville Classic in July, the KZN Expedition in November and the Krugersdorp Game Reserve Mountain Bike Challenge, which takes place in February next year.