How Dryland Events love bringing you enjoyment
11 November 2016
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Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, it’s more matters mountain biking that we’re chatting once again today. Thanks for downloading, I’m Gerald de Kock. For the next 10 minutes or so we’ll be discovering more about this great sport. What makes it tick, what makes an event tick and events in a way are the lifeblood of our sport. Because we seem in this country to be just, we cannot get enough of going to events.
I’m sitting alongside a man who presents numerous events, both mountain biking and trail running, both races, tours and obviously competitive events. Henco Rademeyer from Dryland Events is sitting alongside me, Henco, how many events do you put on, mountain biking events in a year?
Henco Rademeyer: I always have to count, if we include the tours, we’re probably topping 60-70 a year. But mountain bike only and trail run events, we’re at about 12-13.
Where it all started
GDK: Where did this germinate? Where did the events first plant a seed in you?
HR: It’s been a while, probably 15 years ago. What we used to do, I used to be in cycle retail. It is, the local bike shops were the guys that organised the local rides and we did it for some schools and we realised that there’s a business behind this. We grew from there, from a one-two man show, Karl and myself, to a fully-fledge office nowadays. Running quite a bit of staff and full logistical team, so thinks have grown.
GDK: Carel Herholdt, your partner here. Bernard le Roux as well. But how big is that organisation now?
HR: At the moment we have about 12 full-time staff, we have a warehouse with all our logistical things, so yes, it’s quite a bit operation.
GDK: People don’t realise, they come to one of your races, they leave, they don’t know the nuts and bolts about what goes into it. It’s not all you do, but it is pretty much full-time isn’t it?
HR: Yes, it is full-time. I always explain it like this: We always have one foot in the current event and at the moment my one foot is in Cape Pioneer Trek and the other foot is in the other 11-12 events. We cannot just get consumed, because this event somehow consumes you. So you have to actually keep focus on those others because they’ve got their following and their sponsors and their logistics. We just need to look after them.
GDK: You do ride though as well, perhaps not as much as you used to?
HR: I used to ride quite a bit, I actually finished about eight Cape Epics, early days from the first ones. But no, at the moment I ride but if you call 15km every second week, then it’s riding.
What lessons have you learnt over the years?
GDK: And a lot on the motorbike as a lead man on the various races that they have. I’m just looking at this from a business perspective, you’ve had all this time to put it all together. If you were to go back, are there lessons you’ve learnt that you think, hang on, maybe we might do it differently if we were to do it again? It is a beautifully successful business, but have you learnt a lot from putting this all together?
HR: I’ve learnt a huge amount. To be philosophical about it, it’s not about the money, it’s about the journey and having fun with it. There was never really a goal to take this anywhere, it’s just evolved and it’s still evolving. We haven’t even scratched the surface.
So we’ve just gone into other sectors of mountain biking because personally I think that South Africans are so ambitious and hard-working that the longer races like this one will probably eventually fade out for guys like you and I. The three-day events and maybe the two or four-day events will grow. That is where the numbers are if you look in South Africa at those events and from that I think it’ll still just grow.
The industry, we’re still in infancy, but the touring side is where I think we will see most growth. We’re not a touring culture from a cycling perspective, like the Dutch. But the adventure in the touring, taking your wife on a trip, not about cycling, not having to be fit, I think that’s where it’s going.
GDK: Certainly at the Cape Pioneer Trek you have quite a large contingency of international riders, is that a particular focus on this event?
HR: No, it never was, we’ve always been loyal to the South African riders. But what we find is probably because we are one of the longest stage races after their summer, which makes it easier for them to train. I think they’ve got a good following because the diversity of our route from the coast to the desert makes it nice for them and that is where the draw comes from.
GDK: You’ve never been afraid to tinker with and change your routes and the way you present the events. Certainly the Pioneer Trek has taken quite a quantum leap over the eight years in terms of how its evolved. Albeit that you haven’t gone to the thousands of numbers which perhaps you’re not looking for, I don’t know, but you’re still attracting people here who are still loving the event.
HR: Yes, Cape Pioneer Trek has got, in my opinion, a cult following. It started out as a really tough event and it’s still tough. But now it’s tough enough and that is our credo, our hashtag, Tough Enough. You can always make it harder, but it is about enjoyment in the end, for the majority of these guys, except the pros. It has to be fun and with Pioneer we will probably go there. We have fun days in between but it’ll never be easy and soft, it’ll always be tough.
Tankwa Trek is a proper 3-day race
GDK: You’ve got other things which caters for a different style of rider, different type of rider, one-day ride. But at the beginning of the year, early in the year you’ve got the Du Toit Tankwa Trek. The focus is tightening on that, it’s coming up soon, what’s the thinking for 2017 for that?
HR: Tankwa Trek, it is already a fully fledge three-day race, probably one of the only proper races in SA over three-days and that is where it’s going. The field will be international, the media coverage will go worldwide. Big Shot media being a partner of ours on that race, so that is where we’re focusing that. It’s on the racing element, it’s got beautiful trails, it’s got a beautiful venue, probably the best food at any of the stage races, including our own out there. I think that is the allure, we’ve just got a great property there.
GDK: Is there prize money, is that what’s attracting these riders?
HR: No, we never threw prize money at it, but the prize money will be huge next year. We will announce it shortly and we’re going to pull something out of the hat there for the ladies, it’s going to be interesting. We’re not saying too much, but they might earn more than the men!
I think it’s time for a change, it’s time for that and we want to draw the numbers and we’ll never go over two events, we’ll stick to one event. We could go to two events, but we think we lose a bit of the focus and a bit of the intimacy and the personal touch if we go over two or three events.
Important to involve the communities
GDK: I think you’ve come back to what essentially defines your events, is that personal touch, the community feel. The schools that you reach out and the staff, the pupils, the kids, they’re all involved. Is that very much an integral part of how you go about it?
HR: Yes, it is. It’s great to make a difference and we don’t want to window dress. We want to really make a difference. In the end, that should be the legacy, when you go through a town, have you made a difference to their lives. An actual difference, not just in terms of media, all of that, an actual difference. Invested some money in a local community or a project and that’s where we want to go.
The journey has got to be great and that is where we are at the moment with this event and with all the other events. We pull the community in, they’re important, they’re part of the race, they own the race. We go over their land. The race belongs to everybody’s land we cover there.
GDK: A lot of your temporary staff who come and work on the events, the land owners whose lands you’ve been through either on this event or in previous events. You’re building the mountain bike community just through that.
HR: Yes, it is a bit of a community because most of the staff that work here, I couldn’t in my wildest dreams pay them enough. Most of them are friends of mine that have grown with us over the last 10 years, they just take leave or they have their own businesses and they join us. They don’t want money for it, we’re just great friends and I do something for them later on down the line and so it works well.
GDK: It’s the life of a race director, race organiser, his phone has stayed quiet for almost eight minutes, which is not bad. Which suggests that things are running well here Henco, which is not a bad thing! Finally, we touched on earlier about the direction this sport is taking in the future and you’re feeling really bullish about it, it’s growing. But it’s going to grow in a different way to what we’ve been used to in this last 10 years with this proliferation of racing and events, is there space, is it going to get really big?
Touring is going to gain in popularity
HR: I still believe that, and especially SA, that the racing will always be there. The racing will be great and that’ll always grow because it’s got media linked to it. For me personally, I think that the touring side of it, South Africans are slowly evolving, the younger people are getting onto their bikes for non-competitive events. Even the older people and I find that the more intimate rides that we give with Dryland Ride is excellent.
That is probably where, look, it’s another growth area. It’s more of a tourism company than an actual event management company like Dryland is. But I think there’s a lot of scope and our sport, we obviously, we live a bit in the shadow of the major sports like rugby/cricket/football. But cycling is growing and it’s a family lifestyle sport. You can include the kids and the wife and then it’ll always grow.
GDK: Just on that, where are you touching the pulse of the sport in terms of reading that. Is this a feel that you guys have had over the years, that it’s changing?
HR: Look, I usually chat to a lot of people at the events, but what we see, we can see the uptake at the events. We can see that there’s some niche markets in some of the events where they are shorter, but very challenging. Take for instance 361 Mountain Bike Challenge, 361km, about a day and a half that you have to finish and that has grown by 100-200% per year. Next year we’ll top probably 1 200 riders there.
It’s strange, there’s no method in the madness, I don’t know. We’ll probably assess it in six months and see where it’s going, but at the moment, stage racing obviously is growing. But there are a lot of them, so the best ones will survive, no doubt, but I think these niche really hard core one day, two day events are there to stay as well. There’s a different field and a lot of categories we can cover.
GDK: It’s a fascinating aspect, we could talk for a long time about this. It’s wonderful to hear your thoughts on this sport and the way it’s going. Long may it continue and long may your passion for it continue because I think that’s what it is, essentially, you’ve got a passion for it.
HR: Look, I love cycling, I’ve been involved with it my whole life. The nice thing on this side is we actually have, I can stay anywhere in the country, in our case we stay in Oudtshoorn and it’s just great. The lifestyle is great, we’ve got great friends, made great friends all over the world and more and more guys from abroad are actually experiencing South Africa. What a great country we have, what we have to offer and cycling will pull more and more tourists, so we’ll all have fun.
GDK: Thanks very much Henco for talking to us. Henco Rademeyer from Dryland, look them up because they do the tours, the Dryland tours, Dryland Events, the big events. If you haven’t taken part in one of them and you’re a mountain biker, trail runner or perhaps flirting with either one of those, they have the tours which will get you involved. You don’t have to ride all of the tour, you can jump on the back of a bakkie if you’ve had enough, but it’s a wonderful way to explore our country as Henco was saying.
I hope you enjoyed that chat about mountain biking here on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, if so, download once more. You’ll learn hopefully a lot more about this great sport of ours and meet some of the characters. Until then, take care, cheers, ride safely, ride happily, ride with a smile, it’s the best way to ride a bike, cheers.