The 2018 Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter, boasts a new start and registration venue at the top of Helshoogte, which has enabled our route director, Johan Kriegler, to make some significant improvements for the first state of the prestigious 3-day stage race which takes place from 13-15 April in the Paarl-Franschhoek Valley.
The move to the beautiful Zorgvliet Estate for the start of the event means we’re cutting out the Bothmaskop climb from Stellenbosch, which added 350m of ascent to the route in previous years. So, our thinking was; why climb to the top of Helshoogte to get the rewards when we can start there!
This enables Kriegler to include some more of the sublime trails in Banhoek and Boschendal, including a new section from Banhoek to the back of the well-known L’Ormirans Estate, which boasts the famous Franschhoek Motor Museum.
The first stage finishes at Le Franschhoek Hotel and the event has booked out the entire Le Franschhoek Hotel for two evenings where the event is creating a central race village in plush surroundings over two days – during which the endless supply of CBC beer will come in handy.
The previous luxury 2-night tented entry package has now been reshaped into a luxury 2-night hotel stay at no extra cost. The event can only host 100 teams on the package and we still have a few team spots available on a first come first served basis.
As soon as we reach the 100-team threshold we will revert to the tented stay option for the rest of the teams who would like to stay over. We will pitch the tents at the hotel in the same splendid fashion we did at last year’s event.
This move eases logistics with riders staying overnight at the same posh venue in Franschhoek for the Friday and Saturday evening following stages 1 and 2. Stage 2 is a cloverleaf journey.
The Winelands Encounter, presented by STANLIB, links the historic Winelands towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl in a wonderful 160km, 3-day tapestry of trails in the heart of the Cape Winelands.
While the majestic Le Franschhoek Hotel will play host to the event for two evenings following the first and second stages (Friday and Saturday evening) the event also boasts an impressive new finish venue at Nederburg Estate.
Le Franschhoek has always been a popular stop-over for the event and now that they are hosting the Encounter for two evenings riders can look forward to a delightfully relaxing atmosphere with ample time to socialise without having to pack up and go on the Saturday morning.
With the entire hotel at our disposal it is enabling us to create a vibrant race village with only participants inhabiting the hotel for the weekend.
Nederburg, the new finish venue, needs no introduction. It’s the most widely recognised wine label in South Africa and the farm is one of the oldest in the country and official partner of the Qhubeka cycling charity.
Nederburg is close to the N1 highway, which eases rider planning for participants who need to get to Cape Town Airport in the afternoon. The airport is a 35-minute drive from Nederburg on the N1.
While the backbone of stages 1 and 3 remain similar to 2017, the new cloverleaf stage 2 is the main new attraction.
The stage circumvents the Berg River Dam and then goes into the heart of the Drakenstein Mountain range behind the dam into some incredible flowing single track. This new 12km section, which has never been used before, will blow your mind!
On the first stage we are now including some more of the super cool trails in Banhoek and Boschendal, with a fresh trail built to the back of L’Ormirans a new standout feature.
The traditional stage 3 route ran all the way past Paarl into Wellington, and with the distance now being shortened due to the Nederburg stage finish, we don’t just pass through the Hawekwa Forrest to get to Wellington as in the past, but the route digs into the numerous flowing single-track sections in Hawekwa and surrounds on the mountain before dropping down into Nederburg for a fast and exciting finish.
THE NEW STAGE DETAILS:
STAGE 1: 58KM (1550M ASCENT) ZORGVLIET (STELLENBOSCH) TO LE FRANSCHHOEK (FRANSCHHOEK)
STAGE 2: 47KM (1150M ASCENT) LE FRANSCHHOEK TO LE FRANSCHOEK
STAGE 3: 55KM (1400M ASCENT) LE FRANSCHOEK TO NEDERBURG (PAARL)