Words: Kyle Gilham | Photo: Anthony Grote
The popular Sappi Howick MTB Classic is once again set to offer the hundreds expected to head to the KZN Midlands’ event a memorable adventure through the renowned forests and trails of the region when this year’s event takes place on Sunday 1 June.
Hosted by the Howick Mountain Biking Club, the event is known for its large dose of world class single track whilst also offering a true, raw mountain biking experience without the frills and fuss of overly manicured trails.
“We live by and are very proud of our ‘raw and unplugged mountain biking’ motto,” explained race director Gordon beard.
“The 40km route of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic is a challenging route but a lot of fun and all the trails are in excellent condition at the moment!”
The event’s premier race, the 40km Sappi Howick MTB Classic, is unashamedly a tough test however it is still manageable for the regular MTB rider and both the views and cycling obstacles offer great reward throughout.
“The course has both technical and not so technical sections, which offers a little something for everyone and, with the scenery of the area and the quality of the trails, participants really are in for another classic Howick treat again this year.
“As much as 70% of the 40km route is single track and there is about 800 metres of climbing over the 42 kilometres of the longer route.
“Features such as Harry’s, Rock & Roll, New Track and Puff Adder Pass will undoubtedly prove extremely popular!” added Beard.
While the 2013 event was another great success, there were a few who missed out on some of the enjoyment after they got lost along the way and Beard has confirmed that route marking will not be a problem this time around.
“The route will definitely be far better marked than in previous years,” emphasized Beard. “The whole route will be clearly marked with orange day glow stickers and there will be arrows at all major direction changes, so it should be near impossible for riders to get lost this year!”
Title sponsors Sappi are thrilled to be on board again in 2014, further entrenching the forestry giant’s relationship with both the club and the region.
“It is a long standing relationship that we have enjoyed with the Howick MTB Club. Howick’s trails have flowed through our plantations for almost twenty years now and we are delighted to be involved in this year’s Sappi Howick MTB Classic again this year,” said explained Sappi Group Head: Corporate Affairs, Andre Oberholzer.
“Recently the relationship between Sappi and the club became even more formalized through our involvement with the event and we trust our support will help ensure the event’s sustainability and prosperity.
“We are also confident that the Sappi Howick MTB Classic will go a long way in helping showcase the region’s spectacular trails and we hope this will result in even more people making use of the trails throughout the year recreationally as well as during the event itself!” he added.
The trails that weave through Sappi’s plantations are not only enjoyed by numerous running, walking and cycling enthusiasts, but are regularly used at night by various wildlife who reside in the forests, furthering Sappi’s strong environmental passion.
“While the trails are enjoyed recreationally by people during the day, by night they become a highway of wildlife activity as various animals roam our forests after dark,” said Divisional Environmental Manager: Sappi Forests, Dr. David Everard.
“We often use the trails to set up camera traps throughout our plantations in order to track the wildlife that inhabit our plantations and there are heaps of porcupines, jackal, bush buck and many more animals that we have discovered thriving in our plantations.
Supporting the local community is something Sappi is passionate about and Oberholzer urged all out-of-town participants to make full use of their journey to the area on race day.
“Hopefully everyone who takes part in the event will then look to take in the scenic beauty of the region afterwards as well.
“The race is in the heart of the Midlands Meander and is an ideal opportunity to come to the area, enjoy the mountain biking adventure in the morning, visit the local restaurants in the area for lunch afterwards and then possibly even spend the afternoon doing the Meander!” encouraged Oberholzer.
The Sappi Howick MTB Classic offers a 40km, 20km and 10km race and takes place at Howick High School on Sunday 1 June. More info can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za