The MTN Mabalingwe Lion Man event is scheduled for the weekend of May 12-13. This year, it will be part of the MTN South African National marathon series. According to Wessel van der Walt, MTN race director, the Lion Man event was included in the MTN National series for two reasons, namely the relatively short distance from Gauteng and the importance of diversity.
"To get to Mabalingwe from Pretoria it is only a 90-minute drive from Pretoria and two hours from Johannesburg. The majority of the riders who compete in the MTN series are from Gauteng. It is, therefore, important to have some races near Gauteng, especially with the fuel cost that continues to increase.
"We are excited about being able to add this exciting new race to the MTN National MTB Series and offering mountain bike enthusiasts a challenging and picturesque new route. It will also be the first time that we will have a race in the Limpopo Province," said Ryan Gould, MTN General Manager, Brand and Communications.
According to Van der Walt, they strive to offer mountain bikers a unique experience with each of the events. "Because Mabalingwe is a bushveld habitat, the riders will be challenged by some sandy sections, as well as by loose rocks, technical climbs and thorns."
Van der Walt emphasized that this year's route will be drastically different from last year's. "We took time to study the riders' feedback on their racing experiences of last year. One of the main complaints was about the section where just about everybody had to get off their bikes and walk for three kilometres. This is no longer part of the route."
"We have also cut open many new tracks for the race and cleared some of the other tracks. Another highlight is that none of the routes will overlap and that the ultra is a 115km for MTN Mabalingwe. The race is by no means easy and worthy of the national title."
The Lion Man is one of a few mountain bike races where the whole race takes place within the boundaries of a game reserve.
The race features hilly mountain tops, fast straight stretches, ravines, rocky downhills and singletrack sections.
Mabalingwe is spread over more than 12500 hectares of soft rolling hills and is home to the Big Five as well as hippo, giraffe, hyena and sable, to name a few. For bird lovers there are more than 250 species to be spotted.