Course Preview - Stellenbosch World Cup XCO

Mar 8, 2018
by Matthew DeLorme  


This off-season seemed like it just flew by. For many of us in the Northern hemisphere, winter seems to be maintaining an icy grip, but it’s bright and sunny here in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This is the home of the legendary Cape Epic, and we are looking forward to a brand new World Cup season.

That said, this seemingly idyllic land is facing some very real and tough problems this year. Due to a population boom in Cape Town and the surrounding areas, a severe drought has caused reservoirs to start drying up. Most accommodations are asking guests to limit showers to two minutes, not dirty an excess amount of towels, and to be generally conscientious of one's personal water consumption. Teams have had to ship in huge quantities of water to keep hydrated in this heat. It would seem a poor choice to hold a race here, but this problem wasn't looming so large when the venue was chosen. Once the UCI, teams, and manufacturers commit to a race, they can't just walk away. There is a lot of money that goes into to getting a team to these more exotic locations, and the wheels are set into motion early.

So, here we are. Although our hotel pool is taking a hit as a pre-shower rinse station, the crew down here in Stellenbosch has done a great job putting together the track for round one of the XC World Cup. This course has an excellent mix of gnarly technical sections and hard power sections. It's going to be fast-paced racing considering the dry conditions. The course measures 4.4 kilometers with 180 meters of climbing. Race laps will likely be five for the Women and six for the men. Let's take a look at some of the important features of this course with Trek Factory Racing's Anton Cooper. You may notice a few changes on his ride, but rest assured that we will dive more into that and other exciting tech for this opening round.


Anton Cooper New Zealand and Oceanic Champ and all around good dude.
Anton Cooper, New Zealand and Oceanic Champ and all around good dude.

As of Wednesday afternoon the Start Finish arch hadn t been finished but this is Africa and the pace here is a bit slower. Probably has a bit to do with the heat.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Start / Finish arch hadn't been completed, but this is Africa and the pace here is a bit slower. Probably has to do with the heat.

High and dry. An odd reminder of the lack of water here in Stellenbosch.
High and dry. An odd reminder of the lack of water here in Stellenbosch.

Water. It s in short supply here do to a lack of rain and a population boom. Teams are having to order tons of it to get through the weekend.
Water. It's in short supply here. Teams are having to order tons of it to get through the weekend.

Out of the arena and into the A loop.
Out of the arena and into the A loop.

The long road climb up out of the arena into the A loop.
The long road climb out of the arena and into the A loop.

Barely room from for two at a time. Watch for snags here in the first couple laps.
Barely room for two at a time. Watch for snags here in the first couple laps.

This course features plenty of punchy little climbs with nice dusty rocks that provide just the right amount of slip to keep things interesting.
This course features plenty of punchy little climbs with nice dusty rocks that provide just the right amount of slip to keep things interesting.

High speed bumps. Don t touch the brakes and you will skip right over them.
High speed bumps. Don't touch the brakes and you will skip right over them.

A line and B line signs are reversed here. It caused a bit of confusion on day one of practice.
A line and B line signs are reversed here. It caused a bit of confusion on day one of practice.

Entry into Varsity Dropout. It s a rocky roll in followed by a loose berm into a propper drop.
Entry into Varsity Dropout. It's a rocky roll-in followed by a loose berm and into a proper drop.

The Varsity Dropout.
The Varsity Dropout.

Rob Warner is in full approval of this track. Racing is going to be intense and there is a feeling that the Schurter van der Poel race is going to be akin to a knife fight.
Rob Warner is in full approval of this track. Racing is going to be intense and there is a feeling that the Schurter vs. van der Poel race is going to be akin to a knife fight.

Cooper finds his flow in the Rock Garden. Several riders have commented on how well constructed this rock garden is often times man made rock gardens are rather awkward.
Cooper finds his flow in the Rock Garden. Several riders have commented on how well-constructed this section is compared to other, rather awkward man-made rock gardens.

Exit form the Rock Garden and over to the A loop. It s a relatively flat traverse with ample places to pass. Mathieu van der Poel will be putting the power down on these sections. trying to shell everyone around him.
Exit from the Rock Garden and over to the A loop. It's a relatively flat traverse with ample places to pass. Mathieu van der Poel will be putting the power down on these sections trying to shell everyone.

The Wine Barrel looks like a good bit of bike park fun.
The Wine Barrel looks like a good bit of bike park fun.

The Wine Barrel. It s a beautiful bit of track especially when filled with back lit dust. This should be worth paying attention to come Saturday.
The Wine Barrel: It's a beautiful bit of track, especially when filled with backlit dust. This should be worth paying attention to come Saturday.

Tech zones down in the field mountains looming in the distance. Stellenbosch isn t too bad.
Tech zones down in the field with mountains looming in the distance. Stellenbosch isn't too bad.

high speed drops into the arena then through the tech feed zones and out for another lap.
High speed drops into the arena, then through the tech/feed zones and out for another lap.

Loose over hard pack and on compression after the other Pick Up Sticks is a rodeo ride on an XC bike.
Loose over hardpack and one compression after the other. Pick Up Sticks is a rodeo ride on an XC bike.

Pick Up Sticks is a log jam with two lines. Both will have consequences when there are 20 or more racers funneling through it at a time.
Pick Up Sticks is a logjam with two lines. Both will have consequences when there are 20 or more racers funneling through it at a time.

Riders right on Pick Up Sticks is the fast line but practicing both lines is advantageous in the event of traffic.
Riders right on Pick Up Sticks is the fast line, but practicing both lines will be advantageous in the event of traffic.

Khoi Spirit runs like a pump track with small gaps rollers and buttery berms.
Khoi Spirit runs like a pump track with small gaps, rollers, and buttery berms.

The Khoi Spirit section of the track offers flow and air time as well as some pretty impressive views.
The Khoi Spirit section of the track offers flow and airtime, as well as some pretty impressive views. We will see you back here tomorrow to look at some of the bikes and new gadgets for the upcoming season!



Must Read This Week

51 Comments

  • + 110
 XC is the new DH
  • + 77
 XC course previews suck if we can't hear Warner sweating out the alcohol from the previous evening.
  • + 36
 Should be good to watch! Lots of features on track.
  • + 21
 Those are some proper features. I can imagine riding those with few concerns on lap one and even two, but by lap three those features would start looking a lot bigger.
  • + 6
 Yeah, big lesson I learned racing the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series in the half marathon category is that simple terrain features become lung, forearm, back, leg and brain busters after hours and miles in the saddle.
  • + 2
 I will love to see that guy going down during the racing!
  • + 1
 Theo is the same local guy who rode the darkfest line. Gotta love the freerider approach to a XC course!
  • + 4
 @Feet: I wonder if that would be considered cheating if you did jump over the berms like he did. That's the way that xc course should be ridden.
  • + 13
 Love how the article starts with absolute rubbish about the reason for the drought in Cape Town. Population growth has very little to do with it, it just hasn't rained enough for 3 years. As simple as that. The water supply network is capable of delivering two and half times the current demand but is constrained due to the lack of rain and surface run-off. Need to fact check that opening paragraph considering how widely this will be read...
  • + 16
 The XC courses look more technical than the DH courses the UCI puts up.
  • + 11
 I invite you to check the course preview with Andrew Neethling and Nino Shurter. Man the speed he carries with an XC bike on downhill is crazy!
  • + 12
 I wish we had XCO style courses like this in the US.
  • + 2
 There's tons, they just aren't covered as thoroughly as this!
  • + 7
 @dthomp325: Missoula, Angel Fire, Soldier Hollow, Windham, just to name a few ProXCT's. There's tons more that don't feature in the UCI qualifying rounds for the international events like these. None are your standard NICA sidewalk course by a long shot!
  • + 2
 There are plenty like this in Texas, especially in the hill country.
  • + 7
 I wish that there was a stronger interest in the US for XCO - instead we're watching cyclocross races. I don't get it... XC is so much more fun to watch and participate in.
  • + 4
 @plume: Heavy drinking is heavily encouraged at local CX for both spectators and participants. Why wouldn't that catch on here?

Also XCO is cool and everything but bring XCE to the local level and I'll die happy.
  • + 1
 @fullfacemike: Yeah. I've tried to get into CX, it's just not my thing... agreed with XCE, that'd be fun too.
  • + 5
 An open post to anyone who had anything to do with NORBA course layouts back in the day: The images above are the reason you guys don't exist anymore!
Real gnar for the world best riders.
  • + 8
 Love the technical xc courses. Back to mountain-biking.
  • + 6
 I would prefer a few more MM of travel for that course.
  • + 4
 Thos is one of the few XC courses that looks like it would actually be fun to ride.
  • + 5
 I couldn't even ride that with a dropper post..
  • + 3
 Best track on the circuit... in my backyard. I've ridden most of it on an enduro bike which is easy enough but they're on 100mm steep twitchy bikes. Should be fun to watch.
  • + 4
 The Red Bull course preview makes that thing look video-game-fun.
  • + 2
 I was recently involved in a heated discussion with some XC riders stating courses were too difficult now. They won't like this
  • + 4
 That circuit looks fun!
  • + 2
 Nice! Looking forward to this
  • + 2
 Course looks good. Looking forward to the race!
  • + 2
 I couldn't even ride that without a dropper post..
  • + 3
 Gnar!
  • + 1
 Due to big issue with the water scarcity I'm wondering if the mechanics are allowed to clean the bikes with water?
  • + 1
 Will be interesting to see how many opt to run a dropper post here, feels like it would be worth the few extra grams...
  • + 1
 Any chance of live coverage or recorded coverage to watch anywhere?
  • - 1
 First photo - look at how flexy that fork is. The front and rear wheel are totally out of plane.
  • + 1
 looks to me it's the frame that's flexing.
  • + 0
 XC needs more dropper posts!
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2018. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.060966
Mobile Version of Website