At the heart and soul of every stage race lies the tented race village. The intoxicating smells of chain lube, degreasers, sweaty bib shorts and freshly brewed coffee are ingredients for a poem yet to be written. It’s there where we size each other up on arrival day, checking out rival teams’ gear, bikes and branded clothing. It’s the backyard for bush-mechanics and the seminary for old school mountain bike fanatics.

Sure, it’s comfortable and convenient to experience a stage race from the luxury of a nearby guest house or lodge accommodation, but to truly connect with the essence of any race, you need to immerse yourself in the deep end of the MTB stage race underworld. There where weekend warriors and racing snakes alike are made equal by thin mattresses, a sudden downpour or a freezing cold night.

Depending on the riders, the race or general mood of Mother Nature, the tented village becomes a living beast as the race progress. It’s as if she grows tentacles and hairs and start showing signs of a multiple personality disorder. On the one side she will become more jolly towards the end, building up to a massive party with newfound friends, while on the other side her mood is as foul as the smell of her socks. She is a teacher of forgotten cycling wisdom and a reminder of a time when men with hairy legs rode down crazy downhills with fixed forks. But she is also the constant dawn of a new generation of mountain bikers. Those with tight budgets, limited work leave and custom built bikes from parts bought on Bike Hub, who live from one race to the next.

Every year, we see the lodge entries fly like hotcakes, while the camping entries take a bit longer to sell. While we believe that comfort is thoroughly overrated, we want to give those who slog it out in a tent while others sleep snug on a bed in the lodge, some reward for their discomfort.

If you get your camping entry in by 1 April, we’ll throw in free beer vouchers, a massage and a unique Basotho blanket.