The 2023 Dr Evil Classic showcased Plettenberg Bay’s mountain biking at it very best from Thursday, 21 September, to Saturday, the 23 rd . The three-day stage race’s routes provided exceptional riding throughout, despite rain making Friday’s Stage 2 a muddy affair in places. At the sharp end of proceedings, 19-year-old Aaron Pietersen claimed the general classification victory, while Robyn de Groot made her riding comeback with a win in the solo women’s competition. The most anticipated
prize of the weekend was won by Marnus Steyn.
Wittedrift High School, outside Plettenberg Bay, hosted registration and the start of Stage 1. The school’s pupils gave the riders an exuberant send-off, which set the scene for the rest of the event. With the claps, cheers and singing of the scholars ringing in their ears the Dr Evil Classic competitors took to the trails. Day one saw a mix of dual track, through pastures and into the depths of the Knysna Forest, before the route took on the Petrus-se-Brand singletrack. After classic indigenous forest racing it snaked up Bracken Ridge and into pine plantations. The final kilometres of the stage, to Cairnbrogie, teased with a section of MTO’s incredible trails, which would provide much of the playground for the following two days.
Stage 2 and 3 began and finished at Cairnbrogie and boasted singletracks aplenty. Enough to satiate the apatite of even the most voracious of devourers of trail. Friday did however feature a wet and muddy start, after overnight rain persisted into the morning. Once the sun came out, around 10:00, the temperatures warmed and the tracks dried. Remarkably the singletracks themselves did not suffer unduly.
“You can see that the trails are incredibly well-built,” race winner, Pietersen praised. “Even on Friday, when the roads were very wet, slippery and muddy, the singletracks were draining perfectly.” Route director, Erik Klootwyk, rerouted the course to avoid the trails that were more likely to become waterlogged or to be damaged by the 350 sets of tyres rolling through them. As a result,
Saturday’s final stage was shortened too, removing low-lying sections of Cairnbrogie’s trails. This did not affect the excitement levels however. “Stage 3 was an all-out effort,” Pietersen laughed. “Just 25 kilometres of full gas, with lots of great singletracks.” The race winner also added the prize for the fastest ascent of the Alp d’Joe trail, to his haul of three stage victories, on the final day. For this Pietersen was awarded a Switchbag. The talented young rider’s final general classification
margin of victory was 16 minutes, over Stephen du Preez with Conway Oliver a further 3 minutes back.
In the solo women’s competition De Groot was virtually unchallenged. In fact, the multiple South African mountain bike marathon champion was comfortably inside the top ten on all three days, bested only by a handful of men – some of whom race on eBikes. “I haven’t ridden a mountain bike race since I retired from elite race in May last year,” De Groot explained. “It was great to get back to taking part, even though I wasn’t focused on racing, again. The trails here in Plett are truly spectacular and living in the Garden Route we’re very spoilt by riding here.”
The participants were also spoilt by Food Lovers Market. After a morning caffeine fix from Seattle Coffee Co, to ensure a high energy start, the water points provided more than enough fuel to get everyone through the stages. Along with the usual sports nutrition stables – like baby potatoes, jelly babies and bananas – the aid stations also boasted teats like freshly baked scones and koeksisters.
After each day’s riding the lunches were healthy and hearty affairs with salads adding a splash of colour to every plate. Not even the delicious food could distract from the real reason the riders had descended on Plettenberg Bay, the trails.
Dr Evil Classic is undoubtedly the best advertisement for those trails. Bringing mountain bikers from across the country to Plettenberg Bay, since 2012, to see why the town has become a riding Mecca.
The race is also eBike friendly. “Nearly half the field were on eBikes this year,” Joggie Prinsloo of SCOTT Sports Africa noted. “Its great to see that growth year-on-year. That’s why we decided to give away a SCOTT Strike eRide.”
The winner of the bike and the Bosch Fontus 18V cordless leisure cleaner was Steyn. He and nine fellow finalists were selected from a pool of over 800 entries to a social media competition, before he won the lucky draw for the grand prize. All-told the 2023 Dr Evil Classic ensured participants departed Cairnbrogie grinning from ear-to-ear, and just in time too as the region disrupting cut-off low pressure system blew in with more rain as prize giving wrapped up. Timing – like the MTO, Harkerville and Cairnbrogie singletracks – it appears could not have been better.
2023 Dr Evil Classic Results
1. Aaron Pietersen (6:09:19)
2. Stephen du Preez (6:22:26 | +16:07)
3. Conway Oliver (6:25:29 | +19:10)
1. Robyn de Groot (6:22:38
2. Marta Jekot (7:28:49 | +1:6:11)
3. Emma Pienaar (7:48:50 | +1:26:12)
1. Pure Sausage: Cecil & Jaco Bosman (6:47:32)
2. Ride 360: Craig Palm & Steve Sonnekus (7:01:28 | +13:56)
3. Marquis Monkey’s: Cayden & Stephen Marquis (7:18:45 | +31:13)
1. Glover/ Du Chenne: Monica Glover & Chantal Du Chenne (7:23:39)
2. Passion Pedals: Adele Senekal & Wendy Muller (9:39:49 | +2:16:10)
3. Team Amazing: Liesl de Koning & Anneri Kemp (11:53:41 | +4:30:02)
1. Bikeshop: Neill Clark & Tracey Campbell (7:27:55)
2. The Bike Shop Tribe: Andrea & Andrew Van Blommestein (7:56:44 | +28:49)
3. Perx: Riette Prinsloo & Leandro le Roux (8:47:02 | +1:19:07)
1. Johan Bezuidenhout (5:34:03)
2. Tanya McKenzie (5:38:49 | +4:46)
3. Terry Ray (6:28:49 | +54:46)
1. Knysna Toyota: Lee Esterhuizen & Stuart Lightley (5:29:41)
2. Pofadders: Christie Botha & David Louw (6:34:39 | +1:04:58)
3. Barley & Hobs: Paul Fouche & Jhandre van der Riet (7:11:51 | 1:42:10)
photo: The SCOTT Sports Africa prize winners, including Marnus Steyn (front and centre) celebrate winning hampers while Steyn rode away on a new SCOTT Strike eRide. Photo by Oakpics.com.