Icy weather and rain turned Trans Baviaans into a sufferfest

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Cold and wet conditions made climbing preferable to descending. River crossings were an unavoidable issue. (Photo: Llewellyn Lloyd/Reblex Photography)
Cold and wet conditions made climbing preferable to descending. River crossings were an unavoidable issue. (Photo: Llewellyn Lloyd/Reblex Photography)

Trans Baviaans is one of South Africa’s most renowned and respected mountain bike events. Routing from Willowmore to Jeffreys Bay, riders must cover 230km within a 24-hour cutoff schedule. 

Spectacular scenery in the Baviaanskloof, and the test of endurance, draw mountain bikers from all over South Africa to ride Trans Baviaans. But nobody was prepared for the weather that enveloped this year’s Trans Baviaans race, on Saturday and Sunday. 

With a powerful cold front sweeping across the country, after making landfall in Cape Town, riders suffered through a torrid start. Driving rain and icy conditions soaked riders for the first portion of the race. 

Mountain bike
Mud ruins mountain bikes. Riders can expect some hefty maintenance invoices after the event. (Photo: Llewellyn Lloyd/Reblex Photography)

It wasn't fun - even for the winners 

Some Trans Baviaans veterans regard it as the worst conditions they have experienced. Unsurprisingly, there were many withdrawals within the first 50km. 

The winning team’s time is an indication of how difficult conditions were. Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck were first to Jeffreys Bay, in 09:43.49, an hour and forty minutes slower than last year. And they struggled along the route. 

"Nico [Bell] punctured and while we were stopped, so he could fix it, Gerrit [de Vries] began to shake uncontrollably," Gawie Combrinck recounted. "He couldn’t even get his glove back on. All we could do was keep riding, so he could warm up a little."

Most of the Trans Baviaans field are weekend warriors, and some were desperately unprepared for the weather. In mountain biking, there is an adage: "no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear."

Riders who weren’t covered and layered by the best rainproof jackets at the start, with shoe covers and waterproof gloves, suffered much discomfort. 

Wet riding gear and an icy headwind delivered a terrifying windchill factor. Several riders struggled to modulate brakes or get those vital energy snacks out of their pockets, with numb fingers. 

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