As cyclists gear up to tackle the two-day 84km Euro Steel Drak descent in partnership with FNB from 19-20 January 2019, race organisers vow to provide a tough but technically manageable test of mountain biking skills.

Event organiser Derek Christie said , “Our philosophy is that the ride should be a tough one technically even if it isn’t that far distance wise. So, please don’t expect all tailored and manicured trails. We believe that 90 percent of the riders should finish this race 90 percent of the time.

“It is not meant to be an easy ride. It is what the fans of this race call real mountain biking and we try to live up to that reputation.” The route takes in single track, cattle paths and a little district road shadowing the course of the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon that meanders down the uMzimkhulu River as it passes through Underberg and is typical rocky Southern Drakensberg terrain.

Part of the first stage moves through trails used by the Sani Spoors MTB Park, which provides well groomed trails, year round, but most of the single track on the route is only ridden once a year, for the Euro Steel Drak Descent.

While the route follows the river valley, there is still around 900 metres of climbing across both days, and some technically demanding rocky sections that will ask questions of even the most skilled mountain bikers. KAP Sani2c founder, Glen Haw agrees, and says it is one of the most technically demanding stage races on the calendar.

Andrew Hill, who won the race last year as a solo rider, holding off the PYGA Euro Steel team of Julian Jessop and Philemon Sebona, said it is precisely the untamed nature of the route that makes this ride unique.

“It is almost taking us back to where mountain biking started. As riders we look to be tested by the trails that we ride, and this race has some sections of rocky trail that make it unique.

“There are some sections where we ride down onto the rocks alongside the river, and if the river comes up like the paddlers are hoping for, we will be riding through the river,” added Hill.