Studying the route profile before any event increases your chances of getting across the finish line in one piece. Over the next two months, we’re going to break down the route into three chunks and give you a detailed idea of what you’re in for! This week we’re looking at the section from the start at Potberg, to CP2 – roughly 24km into the race.
Potberg Environmental Education centre is in the north-eastern part of De Hoop Nature Reserve and is the start of the Merrell Whale of Trail. It is also incidentally an accommodation option if you’re on a tight budget and happy to a) bunk in a dorm room and b) stay far away from the race village. Click here for more information on staying at the dorm.
Unless you’re driving yourself or staying at the Education Centre, you’ll arrive at the start via bus from De Hoop Collection. Do not miss the bus, it’s a very long walk! There are bathrooms, taps with drinkable water and glowing braziers providing much needed warmth, while you hang out and wait for dawn and enough light to start.
“The first half is in the mountains on beautiful single track,” says Race Director Graham Bird, and for that reason, he has everyone do a lap of the Education Centre before hitting the trail. The aim is to give everyone a chance to fall into place naturally so that it’s not too much of a bun fight.
Expect to climb for the first 4km as you make your way to the top of the highest point of the day, Potberg at 611m. It’s a slow start, but a great way to warm up. The biggest mistake people make here is overdoing it early on and running out of steam towards the end, so take your time, warm up your legs and enjoy the sunrise. The terrain underfoot isn’t too technical, but take care in the early morning light and watch your footing. With 360-degree views of the Overberg farmlands, the Breede River, endless valleys and the Indian Ocean it’s hard not to. If you need more of a distraction, look out for Cape Vultures that belong to a large colony that nest in the area. After the big climb, the trail descends and spits you out at Cupidoskraal hut, the first CP1 of the day. Sign in, throw a high five and move on.
From Cupidoskraal, you’re going to head back upwards! It’s not as big a climb, but now you’re 13km into the race, warmed up and in the thick of things. The path steers you up through fynbos laden single-track again before traversing you along a spectacular ridgeline once again flanked by spectacular views. As you move off Potberg, the fynbos starts to change, as does the terrain underfoot. Enjoy a fast and technical (and slippery if it’s raining) descent to CP2 and the first water point of the day, situated roughly the 23km mark.
The water point is well stocked with icy Nuun, water and tasty treats. Don’t rely on the tables for your race nutrition, but defo enjoy what’s there as an added treat! Don’t forget to say thank you to the marshals and throw a few high fives! Be aware that the first cut-off is also at CP2 at 11:45am.
To get yourself ready for this particular section, mimic the single-track climbs with trails close to home, practice your climbing and descending and do some gym work to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings!
Check in next month for a detailed description of the second section of the Whale of Trail.