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Toughest ever uBhejane Xtreme tests MTB die-hards
13th Dec 2020
The stormy weather that swept across KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday contributed to making the seventh edition of the uBhejane Xtreme iSimangaliso Edition MTB Challenge the toughest staging of this unique ultra marathon. With driving rains and strong winds forecast for Saturday, the brave riders setting off for the 350km and 270km Long Horn and Short Horn rides left a few hours earlier than planned to give themselves enough time to ride though iSimangaliso Wetland Park to the final destination of Bonamanzi. Once the riders reached the dirt roads around Mtunzini they were greeted by slippery muddy roads that sapped their energy and drained their average riding speed, putting into serious jeopardy their ability to finish the entire ride in the safety of daylight. The 350km and 270km riding groups both opted to head for the nearby highways and use 53km of tar riding to keep their end goal realistic by riding on the highway. “The conditions could not possibly have been any tougher,” said event co-ordinator Cliff Wills. “We expected the wind to change direction during the day but instead we had a solid headwind all the way. The storm seemed to hover over us for the entire ride!” “It was totally energy sapping slipping and skidding around on 130km of mud, so the decision to head for tar roads to Mtubatuba was an easy one to make,” he said. The riders, together with the 130km and 60km riders enjoyed the easier, quicker ride through iSimangaliso Wetland Park. “There is a magic spot called the Aerial Boardwalk where you get a view over the whole Lake St Lucia heartland, which was special because it was a sharp reminder to every single rider that they were each riding to raise funds to help in the fight against rhino poaching,” he said. “We didn’t see any elephants but there was plenty of fresh evidence that they had been there,” he added. Former rugby player Joe Pietersen hosted his own group on the 130km ride representing his Nkombe Rhino project. As the ride neared its end the battered and weary MTB enthusiasts were able to enjoy the enormity of what they had overcome on the day, and enjoy the local hospitality. “We had some fantastic stops where the locals literally took hundreds of selfies with the uBhejaneX riders. “The finish at Bonamanzi was festive as well. Joe Pietersen had arranged a great band, which made the celebration special after such a brutal day on the bike,” said Wills....
Rugby legend Pietersen back for a third uBhejane crack
1st Dec 2020
Former Cell C Sharks star and rhino conservation enthusiast Joe Pietersen will return to take on the 2020 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge for the third time when the one day events take place on Saturday 12 December. Pietersen will take part in the 270km event that starts that Umvoti Toll Plaza and although the distance is slightly further Pietersen thinks he ready for this year after, by his own admission, slacking off slightly last year. “In the first year I trained really hard and so last year I thought it would be easy but it was tough,” he said. “I love events like this and they still have such a crucial role to play not just in raising money but in education around rhino conservation. “It is a good cross-over between riding and conservation because not all riders are into conservation and not all conservationists are riders so there is a good balance between the two. “It gives your average person the feeling that they are making a difference even if it’s in a small way and by doing what they enjoy!” Pietersen who is heavily involved in Nkombe Rhino, a non-profit organisation that he founded in 2015 and focuses on protecting endangered species in South Africa, where they continue to do a lot of hard work in trying to grow awareness of the plight of endangered species, not just rhino, in South Africa. Although it might seem like the numbers of rhino poached has decreased, Pietersen believes there are a number of factors that have contributed to this and people must not see this as a win against poaching. “There aren’t as many rhino to poach which means that poachers have to search more for them. “Also, with COVID-19 and reserves being closed the power of word of mouth has decreased because there aren’t people in the reserves to pass on information. “It’s definitely still a bleak picture and we are going to see another rise in numbers with reserves reopening,” he added. Given the impact that COVID-19 has had on the world this year, Pietersen is grateful that they have been able to continue their work and he was happy that they could carry on trying to make a difference. “There were plans and budgets for conservation that got cut because of the impact of COVID-19 but for us we did more than we thought we would and for that it has been a great year for us from a conservation point of view,” he explained....
The Ballito bunch ready for uBhejane Xtreme
19th Nov 2020
With a revised route and new finish venue at Bonamanzi Game Reserve to look forward to, the Hola Trails riders are ready to take on the extended 2020 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge on Saturday 12 December. The team will include the tenacious Natalie Bergstrom who will be making her debut 350km appearance at the event following two years of doing the Short Horn which has historically been 240km. This year’s event has seen a slight increase in the distances of all of the rides but has taken out the tough 30km ascent to Hilltop Camp, which led organisers to believe that the extra distance will not provide too much of an additional challenge. For Bergstrom and her team from the North Coast, being able to ride in the event this year is a win in itself given the uncertainty that the past seven months have been shrouded in. “We are so excited that we can take part again this year because we knew that after last year’s ride we were going to up the challenge and take on the Long Horn,” the veteran MTB star Bergstrom said. “Not only is it going to be a great personal challenge for our group we are very excited to play our small part in helping the rhino in KZN and support such an important cause that I know is very close to all of us. “If we can do that while we do what we love then it’s a win for everyone!” With the change in route and finish venue, riders that have been involved in the uBhejane Xtreme before will have an entirely new section to look forward to as well as avoiding the tough slog up to Hilltop Camp. “It’s an absolute privilege for us to ride where we do during the uBhejane and now with the section through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and into Bonamanzi we are grateful to be able to ride in areas where you aren’t usually allowed to. “The flatter finish this year will make it easier for all the riders and it’s wonderful to have a change. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the different route this year.” Whether it’s taking on the three day ride, the full 350km or even the short 60km, the event comes with its own challenges for every rider. Bergstrom is encouraging riders to make sure that they are ready for whatever ride they are taking part in. “We as a training group have been putting in long rides over the weekends and have another long one planned for this weekend. “Everyone will be training in their own way and it’s important that you put in the effort because you don’t want to be broken and hate the day. “That means you won’t be back next year and we want to see as many people and more back every year. “It’s going to be a great day catching up with people that we haven’t seen in a year!” she added....
uBhejane Xtreme takes on a new look in 2020
4th Nov 2020
The seventh edition of the famous uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge will have a new look in 2020 as riders taking on an extended 350km ride from Hillcrest to the new finish at the iconic iSimangaliso Wetland Park on Saturday, 12 December. For the past six years the race has finished at Hilltop Camp in the Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Game Reserve, however this year organisers have chosen to take riders into the World Heritage Site that is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. The event has raised well over R2.5 million for rhino conservation and anti-rhino poaching efforts in northern KwaZulu-Natal since its inception. “We have seen the uBhejane Xtreme grow hugely over the years and it’s become a popular choice for riders looking to make a difference in a small way,” race organiser Cliff Will said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming riders again for the event this year and hopefully we can make another significant contribution to the efforts against rhino poaching.” Riders have the option of five different rides with the three day option starting on Thursday, 10 December. This has proven to be popular as the organisers aim to grow the appeal of the event by making the distance more manageable. The Longhorn flagship ride of the event is roughly thirty kilometres longer this year, totalling 350km starting at Hillcrest just after midnight and taking riders through the Inanda valley before they hit the cane fields of the North Coast on their way to the finish at Bonamanzi. There is also a 270km Shorthorn ride that has over the years become the most popular event of the uBhejane Xtreme and usually sells out the fastest. The ride starts at the Umvoti Toll Plaza and will also finish at Bonamanzi in the iSiMangaliso Wetland Park. There is also a 130km Babyhorn ride and then a shorter 60km ride that will attract riders who are keen to take part but might not have done the training to take on the longer distances....
Successful uBhejane Xtreme highlights rhino conservation
8th Dec 2019
The 2019 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge set a new tone for the event with the largest field in the events history as riders enjoyed favourable conditions for the various rides to Hilltop Camp in the Hluhluwe/Mfolozi National Park on Saturday. The 2019 event has gone raised over R600 000 to date, however there are still donations coming in and organisers are expecting that number to rise. The three-day ride set off on Thursday on the route from Hillcrest while the other four events set off at various times on Saturday. The 330km ride left Hillcrest at around midnight on Saturday, while the 250km ride set off from Umvoti a few hours later. The 110km ride set off from Canefields while the 30km ride, which included the voice of cycling himself Phil Liggett, comprised of the section from the Centenary Centre to Hilltop Camp through the reserve. With relatively cool conditions and a favourable tail wind the demanding 330km ride was made slightly easier than it has in the past. Former Cell C Sharks and Springbok centre Jeremy Thomson was back for a third year at this year’s event and said it doesn’t get any easier but the people make it more than bearable. “I think we must have had the most favourable conditions this year,” Thomson said. “We’ve had torrential rain, extreme heat and strong head winds in the past but this year was great. “We had a really helpful tail wind towards the end when it started getting really tough. “We had such a good group of people taking part and everyone did their bit when it became tough.” There were times when Thomson had to remember the reason why they were taking on this challenge. “You go through some dark patches,” he said candidly. “But that’s when you focus on the rhinos and conservation to help you through. “It was made a lot easier by the group of riders that we had and that makes a big difference when you are in a dark place.”...
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