Eroica South Africa

Montagu is where adventure memories are made – written by Willie Richards

I am back again at one of my favourite little towns in the Western Cape. What was mentioned in passing during a quick coffee meeting between Kamin from (Single-Track), Marchelle (Flying Feet) and myself in Montagu had me very interested in an event that is apparently the highlight of the steel vintage cycling community.

Two weeks before the Eroica entries closed I made a commitment, paid over a very reasonable entry fee and signed on the dotted line. I did not have much time to prepare for this epic weekend out, but I felt confident that my base fitness would see me through.

I honestly despise using the description bucket list as I believe life is full of great opportunities and one should not limit yourself to a list of things to do, but rather try and soak up as much as you can while you are roaming this wonderful world of ours. But if you have a bucket list add Eroica to it.

I blindly entered the Eroica event which was held for a sixth time in 2022 in Montagu. What a setting is all I can say. If gravel grinding is your thing Montagu surrounds are heaven for any cyclist out there. The gravel roads are in such a good condition and allows for some serious gravel fun. So much fun that even after you have washed away the dust and grime the smile will still be on your face for weeks to come. While I am writing this little blurp, the Eroica event has been long gone and forgotten, but every now and then I do catch myself trawling over their IG page and thinking back to a weekend where the people of Montagu opened their hearts and arms and fed, cared and kept a motley crew of vintage and gravel hungry cyclists entertained.

If you don’t know the event head over too their website and go read what all the hype is about. My advice is sign up for the coming year and ensure your calendar is free to visit Montagu for the next event in 2023.

To be honest but it doesn’t help either that I love Montagu as town. They have just recently been announced as Kwela’s  town of the year in the Western Cape.

The event hosted in Montagu exposed some absolute gems for me that I never even knew existed. I had wonderful aromatic Gin at Groenland farm and the tastiest Salmon rolls I have ever had at Two Dam, sherry and cheese at Doornkloof rest stop and so the list goes on. This all was experienced on day one which was the Saturday.

Day one is known as the Classic race where the older pre-1980 steel frames take to the dirt and each cyclist gets a map that needs to be stamped as you make your way around a circular loop with some check points. At the check points you are being spoilt with food, drinks and all that wonderful Montagu hospitality.

One of the most impressive things is the camaraderie on this day out, it is really something to experience. Cyclists all lend a hand when there is a flat tyre or a mechanical breakdown on route and the overall vibe is infectious. Strangers unite through their love of cycling and being rewarded by the Montagu countryside and all of the local friendliness at the rest stops that were perfectly planned and spaced. Saturday ended up being roughly a 90km day out with too much good food and gin served on route. The Classic day was absolute CLASSIC!

It’s very seldom that you start out into an event and then make friendships on route while you are out cycling. I met so many people during the Saturday on route which I am still in contact with, even now. The event was hosted at De Bos and it really did lend it out for a great cycling festive feeling. The tented sitting area with refreshments at hand created such a great place to meet up and share your experiences of the day. Montagu opened itself up over the weekend and there was so much you could do even off the bike.

Sunday morning was the main event of the weekend a 170km gravel grind for the Classic riders and the Nova riders. I signed up for the Nova event as I only own a modern-day gravel bike. The 170km ride is for the more serious riders. Those riders that do have a couple of extra km in their legs. Just after 5 am a small group of Classic riders and Nova riders lined up for a very chilly early start on Sunday the 8th. Stan Engelbrecht the organizer gave a beautiful speech about the celebration of cycling and the enjoyment that should be had by the Classic riders. Then with a grin, he announced that for the Nova riders this is a race from the start to end.

We left in the dark through the streets of Montagu all riding in a big pack together which was a neutral zone until we turned left onto the gravel making our way to Ouberg pass. Our bike lights danced off each other backs and all you could hear was the tyres and gears spinning away at the smooth gravel as we were carving out our paths towards Ouberg pass. We managed to clear Ouberg as the sun came up with Hoekom Padstal waiting with hot coffee, warm jaffels and fires burning away. Again, the local hospitality of the Montagu people was phenomenal.

After a quick snack, we saddled up and started making our way to Nouga farm stop which was the second checkpoint. Our third checkpoint was at Letteskraal where I probably had the best pancakes I have ever had. Not sure if it was the cold weather but I personally engulfed 3 pancakes myself. Not sure what coffee they were serving but it really did hit the spot. Then it was a rolling gravel grind back to the Hoekom Farm stall. This was our final stop where we were greeted with an ice-cold beer and boerewors roll.

Actually, I was a bit sad at this stage as I knew after this last stop, we were on our way back to De Bos where the finish line was waiting. The Ouberg downhill was epic, and we rolled back into Montagu covered in the dust with smiles that were hard to wipe away.

I really want to thank the event organisers of Eroica and all the wonderful people of Montagu for an event well hosted. So many memorable moments were made and if my schedule allows for it I will most definitely be back but this time probably on a classic bike.

Montagu is where adventure memories are made.