Soon after the 04h30 awakening, the reality of what lies ahead will jolt the senses into nervous anticipation. Day two of Nedbank sani2c is long and arduous by any standards and the early start will reaffirm the respect that this stage commands.
The early batch start will see batch A competitors hurtling down 7km of district road before entering the start of the Ant’s keep left, pass right” double single-track. There after it is Funny music, Butterfly and Soda Falls before Wow exposes the jewel of Nedbank sani2c, the Mighty Umkomaas Valley. These tracks will take riders offer some of the most spectacular views should the early valley mist afford this opportunity. The fast track is broken by short sections of forest roads, which allow overtaking opportunities.
Yankee Doodle is one of the highlights of the Nedbank sani2c and the first taste of things to come for the next 30km. You are lead into Murray’s Meander which has to be some of the most dramatically positioned single-track imaginable. At first glance, it would seem that a route would not be possible above the towering cliffs that drop down to the Mighty Umkomaas. After some breath-taking single-track past Shangi’s homestead and along old cattle paths, riders find themselves being led straight into Nick’s Pass.
Dropping into this valley, this fast switch-back descents will have your brake pads sending hot whiffs of warning to those behind. Here you will find the pride of the route builders – a 3km purpose-built bench cut mountain bike pass known as Sosiba’s Section. Thereafter, you will experience some of the most enjoyable single-track to be found, including the School with some technical rocky patches and short, steep gravel descent.
After passing the cheering children of our adopted Msayana School, you will find yourselves being lead through the heart of Nedbank sani2c country.These fast-flowing sweeping curves will allow you a quick glance at the Umkomaas River, which grows ever closer as you continue your descent. A sharp right bend takes you into Mchunu’s Pride, a smooth, fast, bush-lined footpath leading you past the remote homesteads of Mchunu’s two wives, many children and grandchildren. Leaving the dancing Mchunus behind, you enter the real African bush where the flowing singletrack of Heaven or Hell races through the thorn trees for 3km before the final climax of Tamika’s Detour, which bottoms out on the banks of the river.
The pace and adrenalin rush now changes as you bottom out and follow the banks of the Umkomaas river towards the Cat Walk bridge. After crossing to the north bank of the mighty Umkomaas it is into the game farms and Giraffe Alley for some 10-odd kilometres of mountain biking euphoria. The Peri Bridge will take you back across the river and onto the school boys of Maritzburg College at the 39km mark and the first seconding table of the day.
After Freeman’s farm you will warm the legs on the tracks that lead towards the Ixopo River into a game farms teaming with kudu, bushpig and nyala. This game track is not the only thing that rises – the altitude, temperature and your heart rate soar as you climb out of the valley. This is a long, winding climb through Steve’s Spruit that is challenging under the best of conditions. The remote Ixopo River Valley has many river crossings and is as far as one can get from civilisation. After crossing this river many times, you will pass sad deserted land claimed farms. All will welcome the Nando’s seconding table where most will rest awhile and tuck into a great Nando’s burger.
Leaving the table one drops back into a small valley before a nasty steep climb up to the deserted building of Grand View Farm. Thankfully it flattens a little as you reach the tops and some great game paths lead you through Out of African and into the plantations surround Highflats. Be comforted by the fact that it only gets cooler as you leave the thornveld and approach the timber plantations on the top. Fast Sappi roads lead riders on to Fisherman’s trail and Highflats Church, where you will find the third seconding table for the day. From here it is a further 20km of undulating forest roads past Knocker farm, Judy’s Corner, Puddle Alley and onto the final 2km of Charlie’s Sidewalk before a welcome finish at the second race village on Jolivet Farm. This day will be remembered as one of your most challenging ever on a mountain bike.