At Swazi Frontier in 2014 I was bragging about how much I had enjoyed Race to Rhodes earlier in the year. Naturally I had to slip in the 900m vertical portage up Lehana’s Pass to the top of the Drakensberg, just to establish my superior social credentials as being “hard core”. Justin Armstrong, a fellow rider with whom we had become friends (this happens a lot at Swazi Frontier), then very casually trumped my boast with his participation in what is called the X-Berg Challenge, a race over +-300km in the Drakensberg between paragliders, trail runners and mountain bikers. There is no formal route, only 8 turning points and a no-race exclusion between 11pm and 5am. You plot your own route, load your gps and you’re off. This is really my kind of thing and spending time in the Drakensberg would be a bonus. Justin got me hook, line and sinker! I was going!
X-Berg was founded by Pierre Carter on the same race principles as the Red Bull X-Alps which takes place over a longer distance. The fields are generally small and for the X-Berg version trail runners and mountain bikers have been added to create some interesting dynamics and accommodate a broader adventure audience.
So it’s 8 days before X-Berg. I have kept my legs turning over after Race to Cradock but it’s been a battle not to ride my bicycle and feel like training. You see, I don’t like the training thing very much, Drix Pretorius, my very first mountain biking buddy 10 years ago, always used to say, we don’t train, we “play” ourselves fit, I still subscribe to his wise philosophy. The biggest fun has been the route planning. There are several route choices and they are influenced by one’s personal abilities, preferences and insecurities. In some places one may choose to ride a further course to avoid a steep and technical portage, in other places the portage may save time over a pedal around. There’s the time exclusion that influences where to stop or not stop. I have balanced my route to contain a balance between challenge and enjoyment. I cannot wait to start.
X-Berg brings a fresh dynamic to what some may consider to be an over traded multi-day mountain bike calendar, there is an ever growing need for something different that presents a challenge that is not too difficult to achieve, yet very rewarding. The growth of the Freedom Challenge June intake to almost 130 riders is proof of this and X-Berg is likely to follow suit.
X-Berg starts on Wednesday, 29 April 2014 and you can follow Live Tracking of the participants on www.xcafrica.com.