Hardcore Luxury: The TransCape Multistage MTB Race 2022

By staff writer: Jess Meniere

The annual TRANSCAPE MTB Stage Race, from Geroge to Bot River. Photograph by: Jacques Marais. February 2022.

The TransCape sentiment of ‘it’s about the ride, not about the race’ rings true for the multitude of riders that complete this premium small-field, stage mountain biking race in South Africa.

The race takes its riders through a gruelling multi-stage linear journey offering one of the best endurance mountain biking experiences in the world – after a long day in the saddle, famished and fatigued riders feast into the night on good food, fine wine, comfort and great company. 

The race is divided into six strategic stages – encompassing diverse landscapes, from forest to fynbos to grassland to desert – and then all the way back again.

Starting at Stage 1, Montagu: the TransCape journey kicks off in the beautiful Garden Route town of George, at the foot of the majestic Outeniqua mountains. An enjoyable opening stage that offers a bit of everything and finishes in Oudtshoorn. Clocking a total distance: 81km and ascent: 1 600m.

Stage 2, Rooiberg: is all about one of the legends in Klein Karoo mountain biking, the majestic Rooiberg Pass. The route is mapped out with many scenic backcountry roads which twist and turn its way along the foothills of the splendid Gamka and Rooiberg mountains and finishes at Rooiberg Lodge (Van Wyksdorp). Distance: 77km and ascent: 1 300m. 

Photograph by Jacques Marais of MTB TransCape riders riding Stage 2, Rooiberg. February 2022.

Stage 3, Kanga: this stage is the first of the three longer race stages – peppered with a great many rolling roads, rivers and a private game farm section that offers its riders spectacular views of wildlife and scenery. This stage finishes off at Kweekkraal Guest Farm (Riversdale) after riding a total distance of 91km and climbing an ascent of 1 500m.

Stage 4, Milk & Honey: is generally the toughest stage on TransCape with some short sharp climbs and fast fun single track downhills. The scenery is superb with ever-changing mountain views, river crossings and peaceful farm settings – this stage delivers another memorable day of MTB’ing! Finishing off at Gaikou Lodge, Swellendam after a ride of 95km and an ascent of 1 600m.

Stage 5, Never-ending River: starts with the majestic Langeberg as a backdrop – riding through rolling farm roads of orchards, wheat and canola fields, offers riders an impressive start to the day. The stage is a mixture of slow breathtaking views of the Overberg, fast drops, hard climbs, tar roads and a final gravel dash ending. Finishing off at The Oaks Estate (Greyton). Distance: 96km Ascent: 1 400m.

Stage 6, Bakenkop: takes you through the famous Bakenkop singletracks, arguably one of the coolest single-track sections in the country. It offers the best views your bike will ever take you to, some mildly technical descents, a lengthy gravel section, with steep climbs and winding jeep tracks.  Finishing off at Gabriëlskloof Wine Estate (Botrivier) to a hero’s welcome from friends and family and a well-deserved meal. Distance: 65km Ascent: 1 100m.

While this ride caters for everyone, from the regular joes, weekend warriors and middle-packers, there are a number of riders that are in it to race it and win it. Candice Lill, Faces sponsored athlete, Olympian and multi-titled mountain biker is one of those riders. Together with her husband, Darren Lill, they entered the mixed doubles category and came out tops. 

Photograph by Jacques Marais. Faces athlete Candice Lill riding TransCape on her birthday. February 2022.

Candice shares that she had  “the most amazing time,” the intimacy of the race allowed her to “get to know everyone well.” She particularly enjoyed the relaxed friendly atmosphere, the Transcape spirit and of course the “luxurious accommodation and delicious homey cooked meals.” “Everyone was just happy to be out riding,” which “brought her back to why she loves riding.” 

She’ll definitely be back, Candice adds. “Every detail was perfectly organized, from the positioned water points, magnificent landscapes, to the beautiful venues with delicious food and wine pairings.” Everything made for a memorable event and a great intensive training block for Candice. Adding to the festivities of the TransCape, Candice got to celebrate her birthday outdoors and on her bike, and confirmed that this multistage race was “truly a memorable event.” 

Long after the race has ended, the campfires, quaint little towns and spectacular mountain bike trails burn in the hearts of all the riders. It’s an experience that lives with all TransCape riders forever, the dorpies, eating koeksisters and downing mugs of ‘boeretroos’ while soaking up the special spirit of the “Platteland.”