The weekend started on Friday morning, collecting the Cycle Lab/Toyota Fortuner and making the three-hour drive from Sandton to Clarens, the jewel of the Eastern Free State. We had to be in time for the warm-up ride at 3:30 after booking into the Protea Hotel and getting ready.
We were a group of nine cyclists and four ‘supporters’.
The Friday ride took us out and back on the road to Fouriesburg. We elected to do 40km in anticipation of a big day in the saddle on Saturday. As we found out during the weekend, there are no flat roads in that area, and even the ‘warm-up’ ride yielded 650m of vertical climbing. Supper was social with everyone looking for an early night.
The Saturday ride took us to the town of Witsieshoek and back, a round trip of just over 100km, through the magnificent Golden Gate nature reserve and its iconic Monantsa Pass. The ride was slightly shorter than planned, but we knew that we would have to renegotiate the pass on the return journey, so we allowed discretion to get the better part of valour. Some of the gradients were 15%, and the suffering was exquisite. It was 4hr15min of windy but rewarding cycling, and everyone felt they deserved a decent lunch and some of the local brews. After a leisurely afternoon, we reconvened for another delicious supper and drinks.
Sunday morning, with everyone nursing their legs, we rode to Bethlehem, to complete 200km of superb cycling over the three days.
The weekend was rounded off with a surprise lunch/braai at the Sunnyside Farm, a 120-year-old homestead just outside Clarens, which hosts lunches under huge trees, at the foot of the northern Drakensberg cliffs, in one of the most picturesque settings imaginable.
The scenery was breath-taking, the cycling was great, the company was excellent, and the weekend was fabulous. The weather was kind. The wind blew but the rain stayed away.
This was the inaugural CLA training camp, and judging by the comments, these camps are sure to grow in popularity.