Cyclists competing in the third annual Mpumalanga Tour, in action across the Panorama region from January 13 to 15, drew a lot of attention from local communities. This included the starts for stage 1 at Blyde Canyon, stage 2 at Swadini and stage 3 in Pilgrim’s Rest. Stages 4-6 traversed other areas in the region, with the race finishing at Loskop dam.
The Mpumalanga Tour is one of South Africa’s biggest stage races. It is described by cyclists as one of the hardest races in the calendar, covering 775Km with almost 16 000 meters of climbing over the six days. “I had forgotten how hard the mountains are, but the scenery is so beautiful and the race is very well organized.” said Loto Petrus from Namibia at the start of stage 3. He had spent some time training in Mpumalanga earlier in his pro- cycling career and is off to the commonwealth games later in the year.
“The tour has grown well over the first three years. When we started in 2016 there were 70 competitors and this year there are 114 from all provinces as well as Namibia and Mauritius. We are hoping for some entries from overseas next year,” explained Bart Harmse, the tour director. Kobus Tait, MD Forever Resorts, expressed the hope that the tour will in fact “develop into one of international standing so that we can assure exposure to the young talent of our country”. Forever Resorts is one of the main sponsors of the event, together with the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation.
The overall winner of the Mpumalanga tour this year was 24-year old Matt Beers, a pro rider for New African Developments (NAD) which he had joined only a month previously. His surprise victory came when he overtook all six top cyclists in the last 2 Km of the race.