Fedauto Sani Dragon excitement builds in Southern Berg

Photo - Greg Labuscagne Photography / Gameplan Media

The Southern Drakensberg towns of Underberg and Himeville are set to welcome participants of this year’s Fedauto Sani Dragon in association with Mortimer Toyota to the region with open arms ahead of the two-day mountain biking stage race on Friday and Saturday.

While much of the field look to enjoy two social days in the saddle, the likes of Fedauto youngsters Reinhard Zellhuber and Marc Fourie, the Dream Team pair of Hendrik Bester and Brennan Anderson and the young Fedauto/Russell White duo of Ethan Kemp and Heinrich Zellhuber will be locked in a duel for this year’s spoils.

“Marc and I are feeling strong and positive at the moment and we’ve got a good feeling ahead of the Sani Dragon,” explains Reinhard Zellhuber, the older of the two brothers. “We believe we can finish inside the top two but our main aim is definitely to go for the win, which would be really big for both of us at this stage of our careers.”

After one of their most memorable cycling adventures at last year’s Sani Dragon, Mortimer Toyota’s Rowan Bernstein and Chris van der Linde are back again in 2016 and eager to push on from their top 10 effort a year ago.

“The Fedauto Sani Dragon in association with Mortimer Toyota is just a brilliant event that Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of last and can’t wait to take part in again this year,” says Bernstein.

“We’ve trained hard throughout the winter and made some big gains so it would be nice to improve on our top ten finish from last year, but if we could just improve on our time – ideally by about forty minutes or so – then we’d still be really pleased.”

The shorter Sani Dragon Lite is the event’s other popular option with a 40km opening day taking riders through the district’s farmland, forests and countryside followed by a second stage effort to the South African Border Post as participants of the longer Sani Dragon charge to the top of the iconic Sani Pass.

Perfectly timed pre-race rains have organisers expecting riders to be greeted by dust-free and ideally compact trails come Friday’s opening day’s riding while weather forecasts suggest riders can look forward to mild temperatures throughout the encounter with highs of 18° and 13° Celsius expected on Friday and Saturday.

“A lot of work goes into prepping the course and the light showers we’ve had in the days leading up to the Fedauto Sani Dragon will settle the trails perfectly and should mean little to no dust at all on both days of racing this weekend,” comments race organiser, Spurgeon Flemmington.

“Last year’s heat wave conditions were really testing for riders however those busy preparing for this weekend’s action can expect temperatures far more conducive to endurance racing.”

Characterised by its spectacular mountainous vistas and second stage climb up the iconic Sani Pass, the Sani Dragon offers participants an exclusive off-road cycling opportunity.

“There is also a chance riders will break through the cloud layer on Saturday while summiting Sani Pass, which will make for a unique experience and spectacular views from above the cloud bank.

“With the finish line situated at the top of the pass, conditions suggest there will be some magical photo opportunities before riders make their way back down again at their leisure.

Starting and finishing at the Underberg Farmers Association (UFA) Showgrounds daily and staged over the same period as the annual UFA’s Agricultural Show, riders are encouraged to explore the community festival as well as the endless other attractions in the area.

“The Fedauto Sani Dragon is more about the journey than being a race,” explains co-race organiser, Doug Abbey. “We look to give riders the opportunity to ‘experience the Dragon’ by showing them the area’s incredible sights and sounds as well as exposing them to the wealth of activities the region offers.”

2016 also sees the Fedauto Sani Dragon joining hands with the Lettie Love Fund with the race donating the fees from the first ten late entries to the organization in support of its efforts to eradicate the transport difficulties many in underprivileged communities face when trying receive cancer treatment.

The 2016 Fedauto Sani Dragon in association with Mortimer Toyota takes place on Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October. Entries can be submitted and more information found at www.sanidragon.co.za.