Team Strove powered by FRIB are the 2023 KAP sani2c nonstop champions, having navigated the 250 kms between Underberg and Scottburgh in a time of 12:12:29. The route covers most of the three-day KAP sani2c route, including the legendary Umko Drop descent into the Umkomaas Valley, and participants have 24 hours to complete the course, stopping for photos at checkpoints where they meet up with their support driver.
Made up of riders Rick Diesel, Steve Holm, Darryl Irvine and Jarrad van Zuydam, and support driver Fran Diesel, with further seconding by Adele Lourens, the Strove team commanded the lead for most of the race. Rick Diesel says: "Last year we came second after we took a wrong turn 5 kms from the finish, and the winning team caught us on the beach and beat us by 13 seconds. It was heartbreaking, but made us come back this year. We wanted to beat our time by an hour and we managed to do that. We did 12:12 now and last year we were 13:26.”
Team Strove powered by FRIB. Back row from left: Jarrad van Zuydam, Rick Diesel, Darryl Irvine and Steven Holm. Front from left: Jolandi Venter, Adele Louranes and Fran Diesel.
“For the first stage to Mackenzie Club there were quite a few teams around us. Shelly Racing had a couple of mechanicals and we dropped them but they caught up to us near Mackenzie Club. They stopped quickly there and left, so they were then probably five minutes ahead of us. But we had a race plan, we have done this before and know it's an endurance race, we know it’s a long race. They had another mechanical down the Umko and we passed them, and did not see them for the rest of the race.”
This left three teams, Shelly Racing, Ballie and Balls and Magister Inceptor, each with two riders, to fight it out for the podium. Having paced themselves well and started out relatively slowly, the Magister Inceptor team (12:37:25) of Paul Snyman and Francois Vlok appeared to get faster and faster as the race progressed and were able to pass the two teams and take second place.
Team Magister Inceptor, from left Francois Vlok, Eddie Scheepers, Paul Snyman, with Farmer Glen Haw
Paul Snyman says: “We could see the others were riding a little bit hard so we decided to drop back and we were just sitting from the back down the Umkomaas Valley, and then decided to see if we could catch up on the climb. We made up a lot of time on that climb and when we got to the top, we were back with second and third place. Then when we moved into second place, we realised that the guys at the front had a very big gap. We knew they were strong because they were a team of four, and they were very, very fast. They had a fantastic race. I think we did the right thing to be slow at the start - the climb out the valley was very tough and that's where it opened up for us. The young guys were exceptionally strong, they are fantastic riders.”
Shelly Racing team (12:49:15), brothers Gavin (aged 23) and David Shelly (aged 19), took third place from Team Ballie and Balls, Grant Lavers and Grant Underwood, after jostling for second and third place at various stages. The Shellys did the KAP sani2c nonstop with their father Ken last year, and decided to race it as a pair this year and push for the podium, with mother Lee driving the support vehicle.
Gavin Shelly says: “We were feeling good and so we had a quick stop at Mackenzie whilst the other team had a longer break. It meant we headed towards the Umko drop with a gap but our lights were running low on battery and it was still very dark - this was not the right place to have loadshedding. It was definitely more challenging this year, as we were trying to keep a gap to 2nd and so every line we took down the valley was important, and we were going as fast as possible.
“The Umko is some of the best single track in the country, we are so lucky to have trails like this, with friendly locals supporting us down the hill even at 6am, dark and cold. As the sun came up, towards the end of the descent, unfortunately David hit a large rut and we had to stop again to repair his tyre. This meant the group chasing were able to catch us and go ahead. From this point on we were in 2nd place until Francois and Paul passed us.”
The Shelly team had stopped for breakfast at St Josephines at the bottom of the valley, as they had only stopped briefly at Mackenzie, and this is where the Ballie and Balls team came into contact with them again. Ballie and Balls overtook the Shellys along the district road climb but the Shellys were able to come back and pass them and arrive ahead of them at Jolivet Farm. The Magister Inceptor team had picked up the pace though and also passed the Ballies and Balls team, and were at Jolivet with the Shellys. The Shellys left Jolivet a couple of minutes after Magister and Inceptor, so fell into third place, which they maintained until the finish.
Team Shelly, from left: David Shelly, Sarah David, Gavin Shelly and Lee Shelly
Shelly recounts where they lost second place: “With the legs feeling tender from all the chasing we had to do along the river, the climb out was always going to be extra hard. Even though we had done the race before it felt completely different doing the climb out the valley at a ‘race pace’. It’s mentally hard because you climb up away from the river and then drop back down to the river, and this goes on for a good few kilometres. Knowing you are still alongside the river means you haven’t really started climbing yet, and this starts playing on your mind.”
Summing up the experience, Gavin Shelly says: “Overall the sani2c non-stop is more than a bike race. The diverse terrain, extreme distance and mental challenge is a trio you won’t experience in many other adventure races. It’s unique and can’t be compared to anything else out there. Whether you ride it for the adventure or race it for the podium, it’s an unforgettable experience and should be on the bucket list for many cycling enthusiasts.”
Snyman says: “The route markings in the dark were absolutely brilliant. We didn't have one stage of worrying about where we were going. GPS was spot on. It was just so thrilling, and exceptionally fast. I can't tell you how great it was. I've done sani2cs and I have done Joberg2cs through the day before, but never at night, it's brilliant. The singletrack is what separates this race from any other nonstop race, and the tracks are so flowing. You can't see anything around you, there are no distractions, it's just you and that singletrack. That was fantastic, just brilliant.”
Teams need to meet up with their support driver at checkpoints and send a photo to the race office
Snyman particularly enjoyed the supporter element: “My thirteen year-old son Marinus was my supporter, what a bonding time. It's fantastic for him to be able to be a part of the race with his dad, and he's thinking: ‘One day you're gonna do this for me’. If I got tired, I just knew that my son was waiting for me, and kept going - that was very special.”
Most riders arrived at the Umko Drop after sunrise and could enjoy the views into the Valley
Rick Diesel says: "Some of us have done endurance races before. Most of us have done sani2c and Joberg2c, and most of the stage races around the country. This is the best because it is a proper mountain bike race but also an endurance race. Some of the endurance races are a bit boring, but nonstop has amazing single track and technical stuff, and if you don't have mountain bike skills you are going to struggle. This is one of the best races in the country, it has everything."
KAP sani2c founder ‘Farmer’ Gen Haw, was equally happy with how the race turned out: “There was a bit of rain, but it did not seem to impact the riders’ experience, and as usual the supporter vehicles and seconders were as much a part of the race as the riding itself - a very special experience for everyone, that we will look to make more special, every year.”
The climb in Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve can be a real change with 200 kms in the legs already
Team Strove powered by FRIB (12:12:29)
Rick Diesel, Steven Holm, Darryl Irvine, Jarrad van Zuydam
Support Driver: Fran Diesel
Seconder: Adele Lourens
Magister Inceptor (12:37:25)
Paul Snyman, Francois Vlok
Support Driver: Eddie Scheepers
Seconders: Anel Vlok and Marinus Snyman
Shelly Racing (12:49:15)
Gavin Shelly, David Shelly
Support Driver: Lee Shelly
Ballie and Balls (12:58:51)
Support Driver: Thomas Cheatle
Support Driver: Ken Curr
For full results, see https://sportraxs.com/races/1010/leaderboard