St Francis Bay MTB Challenge 2009, 2010, 2011

By Richard Arderne

The first St Francis Bay MTB Challenge was held on Sunday 6 September 2009, and we waited anxiously at the Links very early that morning, wondering whether we would have 50 cyclists, or maybe 100, but definitely no more than 150.

444 cyclists arrived!

Jeff Clause had agreed to host it at the Links, and that contributed hugely to the popularity, but obviously with that unexpected number of cyclists that arrived, we ran out of entry forms, burgers and much more! But it was a huge success.

In early 2009, Eric Stewart and I had decided that St Francis needed a mountain bike race. So I called Charl Joubert, then chairman of Fat Tracks MTB club in PE, and said “we have the venue, can you help us organize a race?” … to which he wholeheartedly agreed. And so the first St Francis MTB Challenge was held.

Little did I know much work would be involved. Eric and I worked for months, and nearly all day for the two weeks leading up to the race, and then the huge task of marking the route the day before the race!

But we received huge support from locals: sponsorship, prizes, marshalling, assisting at registration, and all the landowners who gave us permission to cycle through their properties.

The Fat Tracks letter after the race from Charl Joubert stated “thank you for making the St Francis Bay MTB Challenge such a special event. … The way everything came together was unbelievable .. riders are not going to forget this race”

So we held the race again in 2010 and 2011, both also great successes. In 2011, due to a very wet winter, we had to postpone the race to November.

Cycling SA’s report after the 2011 race stated “Compliments to the organisers and helpers .. with 570 entries, you are well on your way to becoming the biggest MTB race in the East Cape. The organiser certainly went out of his way to make the event the success that it was, it was once again a fantastic event and everybody confirmed this”

An extract from Our Times after the 2011 race: Next year the race will be organised by the newly formed St Francis Cycling Club. “After three years, I have decided it is time for fresh ideas to take the race to the next level” said Arderne.

Sadly the wet weather in 2012 resulted in another postponement, and it was held only one more time in early 2013, but then wasn’t held again. About time it is reinstated! Maybe the new Coimbra Cycle Centre should do so?

Thanks to various photographers listed in the document below which is mainly from the 2010 Info Document, but with some info from 2009 and 2011


St Francis MTB Challenges: Info 

Sunday 6 September 2009, Sunday 5 September 2010, Sunday 27 November 2011

Hosted by Pam Golding Properties and Fat Tracks MTB Club, based at St Francis Links.

Organising Committee: Charl Joubert & Kevin O’Moore (and Kathy van Dyk in 2010, and Wynand Botha in 2011) (all from (Fat Tracks), Jeff Clause (St Francis Links), Richard Arderne (Pam Golding), Eric Stewart (2009 & 2010), Daniel Nel (2009)

CSA MTB approved: one of only four East Cape MTB races on the national MTB calendar. For 30km and 60km races, R5 goes to Cycling SA.

Pre-entries: for 30km and 60km races. Entries after Sunday 29 August might not get a free t-shirt. Numbers are limited due to the sensitivity of the area.

Fee: R120 for the 60km, R80 for the 30km includes goodie bags with great freebies and free tshirt. 15km is R30 and 5km only R20.

Registration: St Francis Links from 7.30am to 8.45am, start at 9am. Local member of parliament Elza van Lingen will start the races, with a golf cart leading a “slow” start from the carpark, for about 500m until the first hill, to ensure a safe start.

Prize-giving: Medals for the first three men and first three women for each of the eight age groups, from under 12, to over 50. Also great lucky draw prizes.

Prizes: by USN, Sandals Guest House, Country Feeling Clothing, and St Francis Links, plus a Pam Golding award for the first local resident in the 60km race. (2011: lucky draw Commencal bike)

Come the day before: stay at the Cape St Francis Resort at the never-to-be repeated rate of R100 pp, including breakfast. Register between 6 and 7pm whilst enjoying a drink, and enjoy a pasta special. A relaxing breakfast in the morning, knowing you won’t have to queue at the Links.

Water/USN points: Three this year.

Medics and an ambulance: Dr Jean Malan on standby. Roving medic on 4-wheeler.

Free entertainment for the whole family: jumping castle, face painting and dvd’s.

Beneficiary: Disney Creche, in Sea Vista township, St Francis Bay. 80 kids, between 2 and 5 years are fed and looked after every morning. Last year, we raised R2968 which enabled the crèche to be upgraded. This year R10 per cyclist will go towards further help for this worthy cause. We are hoping to raise R5000 this year.

Kouga Municipality Traffic: John Brown, Randall Prinsloo, Nono Soul, Solly Nelson.

Marshall Coordinator: Cathy Carmichael, Motor-bike Marshall: Byron Andrews

T-shirt sponsors: Moore Stephens (x3), African Overalls (x3), Midas Earthcote (x2), PortBay Homes (x2), St Francis Brick (x2), Tag Yachts, Teloc, Jean Hugo, Scribbels, Farol, USN, Custom Bikes, Commencal, Focal Point, Cape St Francis Resort, Humansdorp Butchery

Land Owners: St Francis Links (Jeff Clause); Dunes Country House (Derek & Brent Cook); Sand River Sanctuary (Jimmy Haupt, Terence Marshall, George Lubberson); Chris Erasmus; Rudolph Gerber; Du Plessis Papenfus; Theo v Wyk; Rebels Rus (John Oddy); Rocky Coast  (Jan Riggard); Irma Booysen Reserve (Foster  – Richard Cowling); St Francis Field (Peter Mitchley), Eskom, Mosterts Hoek, Kouga Municipality

Photographers: Emlyn Horne, Jane Arderne, Mickey Freund, Martin Barbour, Mike Tagg, Sasha Park, Carolyn Greathead, Stan Blumberg

Route Description 2010

The routes are almost identical to last year, with some small improvements, partially to reduce the amount of sand: (good) cyclists shouldn’t have to get off and push anywhere on the route. Most of the race is through private land, so this is an annual opportunity for cyclists to ride on a normally restricted route. Please respect this, and do not leave any litter, not even the smallest item.

The routes will be well marked, (again!), so no-one should get lost. Look out for arrows, white arrows marked on the ground with lime, and danger-tape always on your left. This will be explained again at the pre-race briefing. Traffic officers will be on duty where the route crosses public roads, and local volunteer marshalls at many points where we think there is a chance someone might go wrong.

The 5km route is within the safety of the Links, fairly flat, all on the brick-paved roads, suitable for young children, and even younger one’s accompanied by their parents. Last year this was a very popular race, for many youngsters, their first bicycle race. Great opportunity to see the beautiful Links. When the youngsters get back to the Links, there is free entertainment.

The 15km route is for the more adventurous, an easy flat route out of the Links, onto gravel roads through the indigenous bush of the private Sand River Sanctuary. Look out for small buck, and other small animals.

The 30km route is the ideal route for the reasonably fit cyclist, who will experience a fantastic route: after leaving the Links and the Sand River Sanctuary to the west (and the 15km route), cyclists will head further west, through an indigenous forest, suddenly emerging to a magnificent view of Thyspunt beach, before descending about 2km down to the coast. Here you turn left and head back through Rebels Rus private estate on a jeep track about 100m above the high-water mark, with plenty of sea views, if you are fit enough to enjoy them!

After about 5km you descend right down to the high-water mark, through Rocky Coast Farm (also known as the “Wild Side”) for a very enjoyable 3km, within touching distance of the waves, until you arrive at Cape St Francis.

After a very short section of tar, past some of the houses in Cape St Francis (but short of the Light House), you head along the old road Cape St Francis road, now a gravel track, then a sharp right down a steep gravel path to Stix Pub (best not to stop!). Left into da Gama Rd, left again into Grosvenor (about 500m of public roads), then sharp left up into St Francis Field private estate for a steep 500m climb to the water tower. You then descend about 500m to the St Francis Field exit gate, and soon turn right, onto 3km of tar back to the Links gate, with a last 1km climb, before finishing at the clubhouse.

The 60km route is two laps of the 30km route, with a cut-off of two hours at the 30km mark.


The 70km route is now just one lap of a new route:  out to Oyster Bay on the gravel road (22km), and then back to Thys Punt  through the Eskom property  on a beautiful jeep track (with no sand), through indigenous forest and fynbos, with some amazing views of the coast, and the dune fields. The route then joins the 35km route above Thyspunt beach.