A race village with plenty to offer is expected to take the Varsity MTB Challenge to another level when the annual mountain bike race takes place next month.
The two-day event in Paarl, which will be held on September 30 and October 1, will have the Nederburg wine farm as its centrepiece, with cloverleaf routes starting and finishing at the race village.
Although billed as the ultimate alumni challenge, it is also aimed at the general public, who can compete in two-man teams. Student teams will compete in a separate competition within the main event.
ASG Events managing director Wynand de Villiers said having a centralised race village would greatly improve the experience for the riders.
Last year, the race started at Nederburg but finished at La Paris, from where the second stage began.
"The big difference this year is that we're centralising the race village at Nederburg with a cloverleaf route on both days," said De Villiers.
"This will create an easier, user-friendly experience. For example, you can park your car on the Friday and leave it in the same spot for the whole weekend, without having to go anywhere or arranging any transport or related logistics."
He added that, from an organisational point of view, they would be able to put all their efforts into really creating a special vibe and entertainment at one venue instead of having to split things up.
De Villiers said the two-day stage race concept was relatively new, but he felt it had plenty of potential.
"Participants don't have to take any time off work and it's the type of race where you know you can get two proper riding days in, especially if you're training for an event like Wines2Whales."
The ASG boss added that they wanted to offer a "true off-road experience" for the entrants at the race, which is sponsored by First National Bank.
"What makes the Varsity MTB Challenge so special is that all the off the bike elements are really well looked after and it is good value for money."
ASG operations manager Darren Herbst said the main accommodation option was two nights in a luxury tented village at Nederburg.
"This package has been introduced at R2 800 per team of two riders and it includes a luxury tent for Friday and Saturday evening as well as dinner on both evenings at Nederburg," he said.
"This package has proved very popular at our other stage races and we decided to add it to the Varsity experience."
He said the Safari tents featured two comfortable single beds with mattresses, white linen, duvets and pillows, as well as bedside tables, electric lanterns, blankets, carpets, chairs and towels.
"This means there is no need to bring any linen or lights, and there is even a camp chair outside on which to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Drakenstein Mountains."
Herbst said other facilities available to the entrants would be a bike park and storage, bike wash, beer garden, wine-tasting and food stalls.
"There will also be the FNB Massage and Recovery Zone, which will be free to all riders, with no pre-booking necessary."
Visit www.varsitymtbchallenge.co.za to enter or for more information.
CAPTION: Centralised at the Nederburg wine farm, the race village in the Varsity MTB Challenge will offer entrants a luxury off the bike experience when the event takes place in Paarl on September 30 and October 1. Photo: Robert Ward