AFTER 10 months of planning, a major mountain bike race through some of the most beautiful parts of South Africa is finally coming to fruition in Nelson Mandela Bay tomorrow as the inaugural Investec PE to Plett event starts.
From hardcore riders to celebrities trying their hand at the sport, 400 cyclists will gather at Hobie Beach tomorrow morning for the race, which will take riders along a gruelling four-day route covering 368km from Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route.
While the 151 crew members have taken great care to ensure a memorable race for the riders, spectators and supporters have also been catered for with special points along the way.
Spectators can choose from an array of viewing areas tomorrow including the start at Shark Rock Pier, after which the racers will pass Bridge Street, Fifth Avenue Walmer, Dodds Farm, St Clair's Way in Lovemore Heights, the Royalston food and drink stop, Maitland Road and then finally the "Devil's Staircase" along the Gamtoos Valley towards the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel, where they will end the first leg.
Race organiser Mike Glover said the race was not for the fainthearted, as the route was very technical with a lot of single tracks along the way.
"The race was designed with the more serious rider in mind, although it won't be impossible for the weekend warrior. But it will be a challenge," Glover said.
"Top SA cyclists Kevin Evans and Timo Cooper will be competing along with Red Cherry riders Robyn de Groot and Ischen Stopforth, as well as PE's golden girl Anriette Schoeman. Celebrity riders include rugby legend Joel Stransky, epic explorer Alex Harris and pole vaulter Okkert Brits."
He said although he was "Eastern Cape homegrown", he often travelled along the Garden Route and had always been blown away by the region's beauty and so the idea for the PE to Plett race was born.
"It is also because of this beauty that we were sold out during the first two months of going online. This is very unusual, to have all the places filled for a race so quickly and I believe it is because of the scenic route."
Glover said the event took 10 months of planning and discussions with 91 farmers as the race would take riders through many farms and other private land along the way.
It is, however, not all work and no play for the riders, who will be accommodated in a tented village where they will be treated to "five- star food" and other luxuries.
The first leg of the adventure starts in Port Elizabeth and ends in the Gamtoos Valley.
The second stage will see riders set off through Kabeljous, Jeffreys Bay, Paradise Beach on to St Francis Bay, Oyster Bay and end at the Brakkeduine Resort.
From there the third leg will take riders along many dairy farms in the Tsitsikamma area with their final destination for the day at the Storms River Village. On the fourth and final day, racers will take on the journey to Plettenberg Bay.
The event is a collaboration between Red Cherry Adventures and Investec, who have signed a five-year headline sponsorship agreement to make this event a must on the mountain bike calendar.
"Next year we are planning to do the race in reverse and start in Plett and end in Port Elizabeth. We will alternate each year, like the Comrades Marathon." – Garden Route Media