De Hoop Nature Reserve, the jewel of the Overberg, is best known for its amazing land based whale watching, spectacular floral diversity and world class birding – but for thrill seekers the landscape is ideal for mountain biking. The De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience combines the hospitality of the De Hoop Collection with routes designed to provide challenging but not overly long days in the saddle – leaving you fresh enough post-stage to relax with your family.
“Sunset Scramble Ride”| 14km
Stage 1 | Haarwegs Heroes
55 kilometres with 900 meters of climbing
The opening stage of the De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience takes in some of the best established trails around the reserve as it diverges from the Ramsar wetland, that is the De Hoop Vlei, and explores one of the area’s other protected areas of international significance – the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve. Comprising of 1500 hectares of Eastern Rûens Shale Renosterveld, Haarwegskloof is the largest and most contiguous extant of lowland Renosterveld remaining in the world.
The stage starts at the De Hoop Collection and takes riders up a freshly established singletrack climb, which avoids the need to ride up the tar road out of the reserve’s main gate. Winding between rare and endangered floral species, many of which are endemic to De Hoop Nature Reserve the singletrack climbs from the planes into the limestone hard dunes. At the summit Buchu Bushcamp lies in a hidden valley, from where a jeep track takes riders down into the farmlands of the Rûens. Here flocks of merino sheep graze alongside grains ripening in the spring sunshine – and rolling gravel roads are interspersed with farm jeep tracks.
Once in Haarwegskloof riders will be treated to spectacular views across the rolling hills of the Rûens from the highest point of the race at the stage’s second water point. With the crooked valleys of Renosterveld weaving out below, take a moment to appreciate this unique area. At the Haarwegskloof summit you will have accumulated 850 meters of climbing and as such you deserve a reward in the form of a spectacular singletrack descent. The purpose-built trail, named Renosterveld Roller-Coaster, drops 180 meters over 4.5 kilometres onto the Kat Kloof farm. The route back to De Hoop from Kat Kloof takes in the technical Dennis the Menace singletrack climb. While it is undoubtedly a challenge, the worst sections feature concrete ramps to even out the gradient and provide much needed grip. The route home from the top of the final climb provides an exhilarating descent via the same Flatrock singletrack which provided the first challenge of the day. Thereafter an easy final 4 kilometres, allow riders’ minds to wander onto the thoughts of the delicious lunch which awaits back at the De Hoop Collection.
Stage 2 | Trails to Whales
62 kilometres with 750 meters of climbing
An all new stage which takes riders into the Eastern half of De Hoop Nature Reserve where whale watching opportunities reign supreme. The rugged jeep tracks to Vaalkrans have seldom been used, but what they lack in refinement they provide in exhilaration – especially if you stop to take in the views.
The stage starts at the De Hoop Collection and heads out of the reserve over the Tar Flatty and the rolling hills of the limestone hard dunes. Once riders have descended into the farmlands the route veers right and passes Ouplaas before meandering along the banks of the Potberg River towards the day’s first Strava segment. Named Hansie and Grietjie, it is a singletrack climb followed by a singletrack descent through a blue gum forest. The day’s first water point follows at Potberg, 25 kilometers into the route – make sure to refill your bottles here as it could be a long stretch to water point two at Koppie Alleen.
Passing through the gates into the Eastern section of De Hoop Nature Reserve riders move into a region seldom visited by anyone; other than the hikers of the popular Whale Trail. Between kilometres 23 and 32 the route descends gradually, but that changes at the foot of Die Vaalkrans. The second Strava segment of the day comes on a longer climb, but the timed part is only 370 metres long and averages 16% in gradient. Once atop the climb the fun stars again with a rolling jeep track towards the ocean and the Vaalkrans house.
Take your time in the next part of the route, whale sightings are virtually guaranteed whenever you can see the ocean. This section is also deceptively difficult, though it does not feature any significant climbs. A few sandy patches lie in wait too, but take in the beauty of the fynbos rather than try to rush through them – it’s an experience rather than a race after all.
At Koppie Alleen, where water point two awaits, riders will join one of the main gravel roads of De Hoop Nature Reserve and the relatively smooth surface will make for easy going. With the imposing sand dunes to the left and the unspoilt coastal fynbos to the right it is not only an opportunity to clock off a few easier kilometres but also one of the most scenic sections of the route.
The final Strava segment of the day is a long one and comes at the turn-off from the gravel road onto jeep track. At 5.44 kilometres long it is the most significant distance wise of the event, but starting with a downhill drag and averaging -1% in gradient it shouldn’t be too difficult to post a fast time. The segment ends as you rejoin the gravel road and the flat run in to the finish provides game viewing opportunities, across the grasslands, and the chance to contemplate the lunch fit for a king or queen you are about to be served.