Riders do the traditional loop around the World's View area and meander through the forest for a few kilometres as they descend to the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. A short section of tar leads to a purpose-built stretch of single track which includes a steep descent and then a beautiful flowing section along the Dorpspruit to join up with the old course. The single track may not be as easy as the fast descent down Taunton Road, but in terms of traffic it is much safer and is real mountain biking.
Through Pietermaritzburg riders are asked to please be aware of the traffic.
The race does not have full road closure and while traffic officers will be on hand to control traffic, it is the responsibility of riders at all times to give way to vehicles. The early morning ride through Pietermaritzburg is a chance to settle down before tackling the infamous steps into Alexandra Park (just over 12km). The steps off the bridge over the Umzindusi River are dangerous so only ride them if you are confident.
From there it is a short section through the Alexandra park, past the NCC clubhouse where the annual Dusi starts every year and then a gentle climb up to Alexandra Road and on the Alexandra Rd Extension and after 20km you saw goodbye to the tar –and welcome the start of the real racing! Please be careful of the crossing at Bisley Nature Reserve which takes riders onto undulating district road – this year the Duke of York has been moved to the same date as Hill 2 Hill so the backmarkers can expect some road runners to be coming from the opposite direction. Please be nice and avoid them.
A short, fast descent leads to the first real climb of the day, Friesland Hill. The hill is not overly steep, but is energy sapping so get into a nice rhythm but don't over do it – it is just the first hill. Soon after the top of the climb you can recharge your bottles at Umlaas Road (30km), the first water point.
Once again, be careful of the road crossing and then enjoy the next few kilometers before Mike's Hill tests how much you saved on Friesland Hill.
The climb has been made a bit easier this year and as you reach a third of the total distance (36km) you can celebrate the fact that you are now at the highest point since dropping down from World View.
Some sublime single track with a little bit of technical riding through a forest will test your skills and allow you to forget Mike's Hill, and then it is some undulating riding until the underpass under the Eston Road and the second water point at 43km. Be careful on this stretch, although none of the climbs are too severe, some of them are very steep (including one little monster which peaks at a 22% gradient) and this section will come back and haunt those riders who try and make up time by pushing too hard here. This section takes you over the half-way mark and through to Cato Ridge (58km) where WP 3 is located and provides the knowledge that the race is more than half over.
The next 10kms are pretty easy riding with a minor climb to the highway crossing with lots of nice, gentle downhills, firstly along some cattle paths soon after crossing the N3, and then a fast gentle descent next to the railway line. Watch for the sharp left turn to cross the disused railway tracks and the underpass under the N3 – and then the fun starts.
At this point 71km have been completed, over two thirds of the race, and done about 1 000m of climbing – there is still over 700m of climbing in just 32 kilometres. Few riders do many races longer than 60km, so the final 30-odd kms (and the extra 700m of climbing) are pretty much new territory for a lot of competitors. Those that are OK for the final stretch are the ones who didn't push too hard in the first 70!
The toughest climb of the race takes riders from under the N3 up Bartletts and up to the fourth water table (73km). From there it is mostly downhill with a bit of everything thrown in through Bartletts, Woodcutters and on to the Hammarsdale underpass road crossing: There is cane break riding, a bit of forest single track, some jeep track, district road and even a short section of technical rock hopping before riders reach the Ark and the final water point.
Then, as you struggle up Sunrise Hill you can take heart from the fact that this is the final big climb of the event. Once over the top you are within four kilometers of the finish – as the crow flies. Fortunately you are not a crow, and by mountain bike you still have ten kilometres of fun left. Below the electricity substation you will proceed up the new switchback track and onto Hawkstone Road. The tar will be a relief after Sunrise and will help on the one-kilometre rise towards Summerveld.
Once you get off the tar riders know that barring a few small hills it is pretty much all downhill and the route includes some brilliant new brilliant single track paths, including Able's Amble.
You then proceed to the new section around six pack and on to a couple of kilometres of flat and fast (if you have the energy) district road and then a final little climb from under the highway up to the club before riders can enjoy the ride around the track at Shongweni.
From there it is a medal, a beer, a shower and prizegiving with a sense of achievement.