- Coetzenburg to host the season opening event - in cooler conditions than usual
- The races might be much shorter in distance than a conventional multi-day event, but the intensity is brutal
- There will be prize money for kids - to earn their day's fun
Cross Country (XCO) racing is finally returning to the Western Cape and the scene of South Africa’s first and only World Cup event.
Coetzenburg hosted the first round of the World Cup series in 2018 and handed New Zealander Sam Gaze his first and only World Cup win, in a dramatic sprint finish against Nino Schurter.
This Saturday, Paul Roos Gimnasium and the WP Cycling association will be hosting the first round of the WP XCO series. This series usually takes place in the heat of summer but has been postponed to April and May, where cooler temperatures are certainly welcomed by the participants.
All age groups have a category and time slot to race in. From the nippers and sprogs to the older ooms and tannies (Masters).
A world class venue - with lots of challenging features
The track loops above Stellenbosch University’s Coetzenburg fields and follows a slightly adapted version of the 2018 World Cup track with features like Varsity Drop, The Wine Barrell and Pick up Stix all included in the 4km lap.
Each race takes between 1h10 and 1h30 to complete, which sounds easy but at maximum intensity, the finish line can never come soon enough. An all-out effort is required that challenges you as any long-distance race would.
Participating mountain bikers will generally find someone in the event of equal ability, to race bar-to-bar with over the race distance making it extremely competitive. The stopwatch tends to be the ultimate enemy or challenge as with the lap format, it’s easy to see when you are fading or able to stay consistent.
The best in the business aim for what’s called a negative split, where each lap gets slightly faster than the last, but that’s hallowed ground even for the pros.
Cash up for grabs - in all categories
Despite events taking a serious hit during the Covid-19 lockdown, the WP XCO series has managed to front up a decent pool of prize money for category winners, courtesy of race sponsor Vumatel.
Racing starts on Saturday with the ooms going off first and bedding the course in for the youngsters. The main attractions (Elite Women and Men) go off at 10am and 15:30 respectively.
XCO racing is an exciting form of mountain bike racing made for all levels of mountain bike abilities.
Obstacles on the course all have an alternative line, if they appear too difficult for a rider. Generally, most obstacles are easily ridden after a few attempts.
The XCO discipline is also currently the only form of mountain biking that offers up the chance of an Olympic medal, which the likes of Alan Hatherly will be aiming towards if the Olympics are to go ahead as planned in 2021.