With nine days of riding through wonderfully varied terrain, the Old Mutual joBerg2c can easily lay claim to being one of the most spectacular MTB stage races in South Africa. With top riders in attendance this year, the racing should be special too.
PYGA Euro Steel teammates Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes were the best performing all-South African men’s team at this year’s Cape Epic, winning the special red African Jersey and finishing seventh overall. They will be charging into the Old Mutual joBerg2c with utmost confidence, and they look forward to the new challenge.
“The joBerg2c has always been on my list of ‘races to do one day’,” says Philip Buys. “This year it fits in perfectly with our season goals and training. We’re always excited to race hard and flat out on awesome trails, but the neutral stages are also something I’m eager to experience because it’s something different,” said Buys.
Matthys Beukes feels comfortable coming into joBerg2c only weeks after his last major event saying, “My form is good – I trained super hard for the Cape Epic and I’ll be carrying that form on into the rest of the season.”
Gawie Combrinck of NAD Pro MTB, the defending champion of the joBerg2c along with teammate Nico Bell, says he enjoys the race for many reasons.
“As a stage race it takes you through so many different landscapes and every stage has something special and unique to it,” says Combrinck. “I love moving to a new camp every day. I have also come off the back of another stage race, so there isn’t much training at the moment, but rather just recovering as best I can.”
In the mixed category, Candice and Darren Lill (dormakaba) make a return to joBerg2c and will be hoping to hold on to their 2016 title. The Lills biggest challenge for the mixed title will come from Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (Lanham-Love Valencia), who finished third in the category last year, and Ben Melt Swanepoel and Yolandi du Toit (Garmin). All four have been racing well this season, and will be looking to ruin the Lills joBerg2c honeymoon.
Candice Lill says this race will be a special experience. “Racing and competing aside, we share a love for riding and the feeling of sheer joy you get when you pop out at the bottom of an exhilarating trail or summit a long climb. If we’re honest, this is why we all ride.
“Of course there is the racing aspect, as well as the difference in strength and speed, meaning I’ll have to help Darren [laughs], but we have good communication and the ability to stay calm in seemingly stressful situations,” says Candice.
She continues, “For me personally (and I hope Darren too), joBerg2c is extra special for us because in the 2016 edition after avoiding all potential arguments and stress of riding as a couple successfully, we pulled off a win and afterwards got engaged.
“The race taught us a lot about ourselves individually and also how we operate as a team. I think Darren thought if we can get through 9 days of intense racing and working together, then we’re good to go for life. So here we are, back for more.”
Darren Lill’s anticipation for the race is palpable. “Coming from racing on the road, joBerg2c was the first real MTB stage race I did back in 2011 which caused me to fall in love with the sport. I’m racing it because it’s a special event to me.”
Experienced mixed pair Catherine Williamson and Johan Labuschagne (The Bicycle Company Mitas), who recently enjoyed an excellent Cape Epic race together, will also be out to spoil the Lill party, but at the same time have some fun too.
“The joBerg2c is without doubt the highlight in my racing year,” says Williamson. “I tend only to race stage races now and try to race in different countries each year in order to appreciate different cultures and countries but joBerg2c is one of those I will try to get back to each year no matter what. “It ticks all the right boxes: a journey from A to B involving local communities, great food and coffee all week, varied and interesting terrain, competitive but friendly racing, spot on organisation and it’s full of friendly South Africans.”
Johan Labuschagne sums it up rather succinctly when he says, “The joBerg2C is the most enjoyable stage race on the calendar.”
Image credits: Amy McDougall and Nico Bell (Photos by Em Gatland)