Located about two and a half hours outside Johannesburg, in the Limpopo province, is a little piece of Eden known as the Entabeni Private Game Reserve located in the Waterberg, coincidentally, the venue of the MTN Tour of Legends mountain bike ride.
It is important to stress right away that this is not a race in the traditional sense and unless you’re a professional mountain biker, or converted road cyclist, like so many of the invited riders, then you’re not taking part to win the 3 day tour but rather to enjoy the majesty nature has provided as a backdrop for this ride through some of the most scenic vistas imaginable.
Hidden away in Limpopo, the province of catastrophic education system failures, MTN has decided to co-sponsor an event to enable mountain biking enthusiasts in the higher echelons of corporate South Africa to engage in a sport they love, surrounded by beautiful scenery, while being accommodated in fantastic lodgings with heated bathroom floors, satellite television and mountains of buffet food for the second year running.
First of all, I should probably confirm what the more astute reader already suspects, I did not ride this event. I sat on the back of the media Land Cruiser with my assortment of cameras and lenses and tried to capture the event in images for you. I use the term “sat” very loosely. In our endeavors to keep up with the front runners, our driver, Ranger Sean, raced along all kinds of off-road terrain. I think it’s fair to say, and all the other media persons on the vehicle can confirm that we pretty much held on for dear life as we bounced around, much like the ball in a pinball machine and still we were not able to keep in touch with the podium finishers, Team EAI, Blackberry and Columbia.
- EAI Cycling 05: 33’ 07”
- Team Blackberry 05: 45’ 02”
- Columbia 06: 09’ 42”
- Torq Zone/USN 06: 14’ 54”
- Powerhouse 06: 22’ 13”
Riders competed in pairs, the clock stopping when the second rider in the team crossed the finish line. If you need any proof that this is a ride and not a race, the organisers stopped the clock for all the competitors on the Friday and Saturday routes so the riders could enjoy themselves, take a breather if you like, soak up the incredible scenery surrounding them, take on some refreshments and nourishment and if the mood strikes them, do a little boogie while waiting for the Ferry (on the Friday).
Saturday’s clock stopping rest stop and watering hole had a completely different feel to it. I suspect the riders also appreciated the opportunity to rest up a little more because the route for Saturday included an absurd gradient up to a plateau and back down again. The opportunity to park your bike, have a cold drink and some energy packed foods while gazing over the plains below, which was breath taking, would’ve allowed the riders to regain some energy before carrying, yes I said carrying, their bicycles over a ridge to ride down a single track on the other side. The view from the look out is truly spectacular.
- MTN CMO 07: 34’ 40”
- Team WTF 08: 34’ 55”
- Bright Fame 09: 49’ 01”
- Last minute.com 10: 40’ 26”
- Rika’s Team 11: 59’ 00”
Mountain biking is not a cheap sport to get involved in it would seem. On Friay night BMC, a swiss manufacturer, auctioned off a bike, apparently top of the range worth a staggering R82,000; The funds raised were donated to MTN Qhubeka, a charity based upon the idea that African children in rural areas spend too much time getting to and from school and if they had a bicycle, they could not only travel the great distances to school, thereby obtaining an education but also have more time to complete their traditional chores which would otherwise keep them from attending school regularly. A noble cause indeed and a princely sum of R76,000 was raised from the sale of the somewhat soiled bicycle after dinner on Friday in the “Kraal”.
Sport’s tribute to Nelson Mandela was celebrated by Bafana winning their match against Burkino Faso and the magnificent display of the Springboks demolishing the hapless Argentinian Pumas. All of which we watched on giant screens in the dining venue known as the “Shebeen” where meals are served on metal plates and drinks are poured into metal coffee mugs. The afternoon’s victories created a happy vibe for the cyclists, physically challenged by the climb and subsequent descent of Yellow Wood to party well into the night. Some retiring to their lodgings only hours before the final stage on Sunday.
Sunday’s ride was a bit of a mad rush. A very short stage by comparison to allow everyone enough time to race back to Gauteng in order for them to resume their corporate life, was completed in two to three hours by most of the competitors before receiving a lovely commemorative gold medal and appropriately named, “I am Legend” t-shirt before throwing bicycles, wives and children in the back of their assorted Cayenne’s, Range Rovers and other similar vehicles.
I would like to thank our hosts MTN, Samsung and Entabeni for a fabulous weekend. A weekend where I learned a lot about mountain biking, a little about pinball and re-discovered my love for the African Bush.
Many more images of the spectacular venue are up in our gallery here.
MTN’s partnership with the Wildlands trust continues to make tremendous strides in addressing the various socio-economic challenges faced by multitudes of disadvantaged communities across South Africa. MTN along with the Wildlands trust, sees the MTN Qhubeka project not only focused on mobilising business potential through our communication solutions, but also on mobilising and uplifting communities around the country one bicycle, one tree at a time.