The people from Ladismith, a small town in the Little Karoo, will agree that mountain biking can make a difference to the lives of ordinary people. One weekend every year their town is invaded by mountain bikers who come to race in the Ladismith Cheese Seweweekspoort MTB Challenge. This year the event will take place on 15 October.
It is the brainchild of two doctors Pieter Blignaut and Jaco Denkema. This year Dryland Events also got involved. More than 1000 mountain bikers are expected to participate over the various race distances, namely 25km, 40km and 80km. This event creates a boom in the town’s economy because the riders and their supporters need to eat, sleep and enjoy themselves.
A conservative estimate will be to assume that each rider will spend approximately R1000 on meals, petrol and accommodation over the weekend. This means that the race could bring in about R1.5 million to boost the town’s economy. This is not taking into account the family members of the riders who will accompany them.
According to Fanus Walters, principal of the Hoërskool Ladismith, the Seweweekspoort Challenge has developed from merely a small race into one of the main social events on the town’s social calendar. “People realize the importance of such a race, especially because many small towns are currently involved in a battle for economic survival. Ladismith is no exception. “One of the main problems in most small towns is the over-population that puts huge demands on the economies of the towns.
“Ladismith’s economy is sustained by two cheese factories, a distillery, a dried fruit company, as well as ostrich and dairy farms. This is more than what many other towns can boast of, but it is still not enough to sustain the ever increasing population.
“The people who live at the Zoar/Amalienstein Missionaries and in Vanwyksdorp also rely on Ladismith for their survival. Therefore, any extra income that can be generated brings welcome relief too many people.”
Walter reckons that the big spin-off of the race is that it makes people aware of the fact that Ladismith actually has much to offer from a tourism perspective.
“The main tourist attraction of our town is the Swartberg that surrounds it. This mountain range has been the inspiration for a number of authors who used it as a background for their stories. In this regard Jan van Tonder and Abraham de Vries can be mentioned and even David Kramer refers to the Swartberg in some of his songs.
“A considerable portion of the race goes through parts of the beautiful and unspoilt Seweweekspoort. Riders will also get the opportunity to ride through some of the most beautiful farms in the Hoeko Valley. For those who may not know, this is where the most famous author in Afrikaans, CJ Langenhoven, was born.
“I will admit that most people’s first impression of Ladismith may not be favourable, but first impressions can often be misleading. There are some really beautiful old buildings in the town that date back to the boom period of the ostrich feathers industry in the previous century. The architecture of some of these houses is unique to this part of the country.
“In short, Ladismith is the uncrowned jewel of the Little Karoo.”