The 2017 Route – Kings, cannibals and climbs
The route launch is finally here and man, are we excited! It’s been a long time coming with a lot of hard work behind the scenes to finalise this brand-new route. The 2017 Lesotho Sky stage race will be a race steeped in African history and mountain bike stoke – from legends of cannibals to the fortress-mountain where King Moshoeshoe forged his kingdom. As always, the route will be as old school as it gets. The Lesotho Sky is as close as you will get to riding ancient African mountain trails made by nature and a rich history of trade routes, cattle farming and horseback riding in Lesotho.
We’ve turned the race on its head, literally. The legendary six-day route is going to be in reverse, meaning that we have changed the direction of all the prominent stages of previous years back to front. The good news is that all the climbs that broke your heart in the past, are now rad descents. The bad news is obvious: the crazy downhills are now “you-must-be-kidding” climbs. We will also be spending two nights at our new home of cycling in Lesotho: Roma Trading Post Lodge. It is here where we took hands with Claudio Caluori and Velosolutions to build the first ever Pump For Peace pump track in Africa.
The total distance of the race: 369km with an overall elevation of 9827m. As always, Day 1 will start at Ramabanta. In previous years, riders used to ride from Ramabanta to Malealea and later back to Ramabanta from Roma. This year, we do the route from Roma to Ramabanta in reverse. It will be shorter than the original and include brand-new sections that will leave riders in awe. This stage will also take riders to the base of Popa Mountain, where a tribe of cannibals once lived. The riding here is so awesome, you will eat your heart out (or your mate’s…).
Day 2 is all new. Since we’ve made Roma our off-season basecamp, we’ve been scouting routes like mad. The route will take riders close to the fortress mountain where the legendary African king Moshoeshoe I forged a new tribe that eventually became known as the Basothos.
On the Day 3 riders will ride from Roma to Malealea, passing the home-village of king Moshoeshoe II and the present King Letsie III. The day will show who’s got MTB royalty in their blood, because it is going to be tough. Race Director Darol “Pain Cave” Howes has given this a beer-recovery rating of five-and-a-half-pints out of six. Some might need a whole keg.
From Malealea the race heads back to Ramabanta on Day 4. This route is a reverse of previous years. Seasoned Lesotho Sky riders will love the change of scenery and see familiar spots from a completely different angle.
Back at Ramabanta, two days of classic Lesotho Sky riding awaits. The Ramabanta Loop on Day 5 is always a tough little bugger. The profile looks like the graph on a heart monitor of a horny teenager: short, steep climbs followed by rad descents to the bottom of yet another climb. It’s also Darol’s 30th birthday, so there is a good chance most riders will have a serious hangover or will be holding back, knowing that a big night awaits.
The final day is just plain awesome. The Semonkong Loop takes riders to the edge of the spectacular Maletsunyane Falls. This must be the most breathtaking MTB stage race finish line in Africa. Pull out the baggies: this day is all about fun. There’s not much climbing, but due to the altitude, each climb will feel like a punch in the face.
Riders will get to the ride the notorious Wild Goose, a spectacular piece of single track with an elusive flow. If you are able to find it, you’ll go straight to MTB heaven. If the flow eludes you, the Wild Goose will expose the inner roadie in big-talking mountain bikers. We love it.