Gravel bikes, single-speed mountain bikes, and e-bikes to participate in the Tru-Cape supported 2023 Karoo to Coast.
Heritage Day 2023, or Braai Day as it is more commonly known, coincides with the 23 Lions Karoo to Coast mountain bike race on Sunday, 24 September. It is among the most iconic events in the country and provides 4,500 riders with a goal to keep them on their bikes through the cold winter months and provides a springboard from one-day events into stage races, thanks to its association with the Dr Evil Classic. It is also the major fundraising event for Lions Club Knysna.
“There are over 300 kilometres of dirt roads and mountain bike trails in the area, complete with stunning mountains vistas and wide-open spaces, meaning you are spoiled for choice when it comes to mountain and gravel biking from Uniondale,” said Joan Shaw, the CEO of George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism. “Its route covers 100 kilometres, from Uniondale to Knysna, including the scenic Prince Alfred Pass and the beautiful indigenous forest roads through Kom se Pad,” she says.
Tru-Cape, South Africa’s largest exporter of apples and pears, is a sponsor of this event and has long-standing relationships with grower suppliers in the Langkloof area in which the race takes place. Tru-Cape National Sales Manager, Johan Brink, competed last year and hopes to do so again this year. “Registration takes place at the Uniondale Show Ground. The total ascent is 1,560m with a decent of 1,815m. Riding over mountains through the Karoo, over the Prince Alfred’s Pass and passing some of Tru-Cape apple farms is wonderful to see as the blossoms of the apple trees emerge. Some of our farmers from the Langkloof also ride. The children from the local community were cheering us on with songs like “Hou bene Hou, die pad is nog lank”, which brought smiles to all the riders,” he says.
According to Brink, the decent was fast and had to be taken cautiously. “Those sharp switch-back turns can end up with you in hospital. There are marshals everywhere to slow the riders down at the danger zones,” he says.
Brink says that the event is very well organised with nine water-points over the 100km. “The water-points were well stocked with food and there was friendly service from the community. Some Tru-Cape growers were managing the water points too and I’m sure the same will be true this year,” he says.
Brink says that the last 30km of the race are quite tough but also very scenic as one rides through the Knysna forest. “The last climb towards Simola Golf Estate was tough but once we got to the top the last 5km were downhill with the lovely Knysna lagoon lying in front of us,” he says.
Brink says that the race ends at the Knysna Sports Grounds and big crowds cheering riders on and welcoming riders to Knysna can be expected.
The Prince Alfred Pass is the longest publicly accessible mountain pass in South Africa. It was first opened to light traffic in 1866 and is considered to be the finest work of the prolific road builder, Thomas Bain. Though the start is off one of the Karoo’s major thoroughfares and the finish is in the heart of the Garden Route, the course itself is relatively remote. The race thus provides an excellent opportunity to ride a famous pass, which one would otherwise never explore and celebrate in the heritage of the region.
E-Bikes will be allowed for the first time. “We’re excited to announce the new E-Bike category,” race director Zandile Meneses smiled. “The E-Bike category will be a ‘fun’ ride one, with participants on electrically assisted bicycles starting in their own start group. We’d like E-Bikers to take it easy and enjoy the scenery, rather than trying to race the route. But with 100 kilometres to cover they will have to look after their battery, so clever power management will be essential.”
“Gravel bikes and single-speed mountain bikes will also be allowed this year,” Meneses confirmed. “They will be governed by the normal race rules and as such will be able to race against the conventional mountain bikes. “I think it’ll be interesting to see if gravel bikes prove faster over the course. We’ve had a few unofficial finishers on gravel bikes in recent years, but mountain bikes have always won out. Perhaps that will change with road conditions. The Ou Wapad, out of Uninondale to Avontuur, will probably be the crucial differentiating factor in the battle between gravel and mountain bikes,” she ends.
For more information and for entries to the 2023 race visit www.karootocoast.com.