The Spring Classic – Jo’burg’s oldest MTB race
11 January 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, time to chat some mountain biking and some great mountain biking events, we are truly spoilt for choice here in South Africa. One of the eventing companies that puts on a pretty decent race is Ilummin8 Events and were joined now by Richard Beswick. Richard welcome, thanks for taking the time to chat to us again, welcome back.
Richard Beswick: Thanks Brad, great to be here again.
BB: Richard, you guys do some pretty cool stuff as far as mountain bike races go. One in particular has been around for a long, long time, the Spring Classic you guys put on every single year at the Avianto Trails. Tell us a little bit about the Spring Classic, it’s probably the oldest, I speak under correction, the oldest mountain bike race in Jo’burg?
The Spring Classic
RB: Yes, Brad, we’re quite proud of that title of oldest race in Jo’burg and we’re 20 years old this year when we hosted the event in September. Like I said, started in 1995, it was started by the guys from Morningside Cycles, which were basically, I suppose one of the founding bike shops as well, that really pushed mountain biking.
A lot of the cycling stores back in the day, used to really only have one or two mountain bikes on the floor and it was mostly all sort of road cycling and that was what was popular at that particular time. I think the reason mountain biking wasn’t that popular was the fact that the only racing that you could do was lap racing or the Olympic style racing that we used to watch Burry Stander doing at the last Olympics.
It consists basically of your 5-7km lap and very technical route and the guys would do laps based on your age category and that was the only racing that was on offer. It tended to get a lot more guys rather spectating the sport, if they were interested, rather than taking part.
Because of the fact that it was technical, it was very high intensity and it wasn’t appealing for your general weekend plodder that wanted to just go out and ride mountain biking. Obviously Morningside was into selling bikes and they wanted to get more people on mountain bikes.
They started the Spring Classic and it was one of the first 45km, 25km and 10km races in South Africa, let alone the first in Jo’burg. It was started out in the Helderfontein/Kyalami area and it grew from strength to strength. Even back then it was pulling over a thousand riders and it was a lot of newbies to the sport. It was almost like the first introduction for most people to mountain biking.
I competed, I was actually working at morningside cycles at that time and I competed in the first race and ja, it was great to be a part of it. Moving on, it got sold in 2008 to HSB who are the organisers of the Momentum 94.7 and the 702 Walk the Talk.
They did it for four years and after that, it was one of their smaller events and they were looking to concentrate on their bigger events and they ended up offering it to me. Obviously at a purchase price and I jumped at the opportunity.
Pulling it into our racing family
Pulled the money together and took on the event and when I bought it, it actually came with a sponsor, which is one of the reasons that I took it on. That sponsor was Eqstra who had been involved with the event for two years before I took it on and are still involved today with the event.
We’ve since moved the event to Avianto Trails in 2012 and it’s grown from strength to strength. It’s got a very solid following from the mountain bikers that raced, possibly even the very first Spring Classic and have continued to do so.
Obviously, like you said now, guys are spoilt for choice. On any given weekend there could be five events that the mountain biker has to choose from, so it’s a little bit more difficult. We still attract the 1 200 rider mark, it’s not the biggest, obviously your 94.7 mountain bikers are attracting 6 000 people. But we also don’t really want that amount of people.
We want to keep it as one of those heritage events and one of those classic events that sells out. You almost need to book your spot early for the event, otherwise you’re not going to get in. It’s always been known as a very tough 45km route. Obviously now as the marathons doing up to 130-140km on the bike, 45km might seem a small task for them. So we make the route nice and tough.
Obviously the lay of the land in Muldersdrift and out at Avianto lends itself to a tough mountain biking race. It’s quite rocky trails and loose and short, sharp climbs as well as some longer climbs. We keep the route probably about 80% single track. So it really is a nice challenging route for the guy that really enjoys his mountain biking and his single track riding.
BB: Brilliant. All the details are on the website, ilumin8events.com and then tell us a little bit about the other one you put on as well, out in Modderfontein, the VC TrailBlazer.
Varsity College TrailBlazer
RB: Yes, that’s the Varsity College TrailBlazer, now Varsity College, they’ve been involved with us in terms of events for about six years now. Varsity College obviously being one of those universities that doesn’t offer the rugby and the cricket and the more traditional sports.
They actually focus on what they call ‘sport life’ and their sport life programme and it lends itself to the student that’s leaving school. He’s not involved in the rugby sport and is sort of tending towards either trail running, a triathlon, a duathlon or a mountain biking.
They try to offer these programmes to these types of students and athletes that can sort of give them some support in the sport that are probably a little bit more fringe in SA. Obviously mountain biking is growing from strength to strength each year, but it’s still few and far between in becoming an official school sport as such.
So, the VC TrailBlazer, next year will be its third year. Before that we actually used to do a 12-hour event with Varsity College and that’s obviously a very different format. We wanted to get more people and more athletes involved with it. So we changed the format.
We turned it into the VC TrailBlazer and hosted it at Modderfontein, which is a fantastic park, probably one of the most beautiful places in Gauteng to host an event. Really enjoyable riding and what’s nice about Modderfontein in comparison to Avianto is that it’s a lot more beginner friendly.
There’s not that many hills, so for guys that are just starting out in mountain biking, the VC TrailBlazer is a perfect event to get them going in the sport and it’s also growing from strength to strength. We’ve almost upped our numbers by about 300 this year and ja, hoping to do the same again next year.
BB: It sounds brilliant. If you want to find out more, ilumin8events.com, that’s the website to get to. Richard, thanks for your time here on Old Mutual Live, much appreciated, we look forward to catching up again.
RB: Thanks Brad, thanks for having me on the show.