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.
Stage 1 | Haarwegs Heroes
68 kilometres with 1 258 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 the Tar Flatty, as the ascent of the pass out of the nature reserve has been dubbed, the first Strava segment of the event. From there to Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve – in the midst of the Rûens farmlands were flocks of merino sheep graze alongside grains ripening in the spring sunshine – 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 virgin singletrack. 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 singletrack descent which you navigated earlier in the day, from the limestone hills, as a technical 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 easy final 5 kilometres back to the De Hoop Collection, where a delicious lunch awaits.
|Stage 1: Strava Segments|
|Tar Flatty||Climb||1km||+ 9%|
|Renosterveld Roller-Coaster||Descent||3.98km||– 4%|
|Dennis the Menace Climb||Climb||0.72km||+ 9%|
Stage 2 | Trails to Whales
62 kilometres with 705 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.
|Stage 2: Strava Segments|
|Hansie and Grietjie||Up & Down||1.63km||+ 0%|
|Die Vaalkrans||Climb||0.37km||+ 16%|
|Dronk Vlei Dash||Rolling||5.44km||– 1%|
Stage 3 | Vogel Finale
50 kilometres with 711 meters of climbing
The De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience saves the truly unique for last and final stage of the race takes in a section of private land otherwise inaccessible to the general public. Known as Vogel Revier the north-western shoreline of the De Hoop Vlei offers spectacular views and unique riding on jeep tracks slowly being reclaimed by fynbos following years of abandonment.
The stage follows the same first 7 kilometres as the opening day, climbing the Tar Flatty before turning off the gravel road onto a rugged jeep track. This gradually climbs to a ridgeline overlooking the eastern banks of the vlei before descending the Slide to Vogel Revier: a twisting jeep track drop which begs to be ridden flat out – but only by those whose skills match their bravery. The route then crosses the vlei on a low causeway, before skirting the eastern shoreline towards the most challenging climb of the race. Dubbed the Limestone Licker it will require all your skill and strength to pedal the whole way up. But fear not if you need to walk a section or two, the views from the top are more than worthwhile – in fact you are encouraged to take the time to look around while taking on the climb. You are unlikely to ever see anything quite like it from your bike outside of the De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience. Once atop the Limestone Licker the stunning views continue to the left as the route follows an ancient cliff top trail before descending towards the final water point of the event at Melkkamer. The Edwardian-style sandstone manor house was built in 1907, but the cottages and stables which surround it far pre-date the main house. Unfortunately the luxury of Melkkamer has to be left behind as the finish line beckons across the vlei. A final fifteen kilometres of jeep track and a little gravel road loops south, around the bottom of the vlei before heading north again to the finish line and the final prize giving at the De Hoop Collection.
|Stage 3: Strava Segments|
|Slide to Vogel River||Descent||2.57km||157m at – 6%|
|Limestone Licker||Climb||1.10km||136m at + 12%|
|Shell Shocked||Descent||1.43km||116m at – 8%|