The fourth annual 36ONE MTB Challenge will take place in Oudtshoorn from 17-19 April and boasts more than a 50% increase in entries over last year as more mountain bikers seek new challenges and are drawn to the country’s premier ultra-endurance race.
The single-stage 361-kilometre race through the Karoo is longer than the cumulative distance of most of South Africa’s popular three-day mountain bike stage races, with a total ascent of 5250 metres, making it one of the longest, toughest single-stage races in the country.
Adding to the challenge is that it starts on the Friday evening, which requires the competitors to pedal through the night and into the following day in an effort to beat the 36.1-hour cut-off. That most of the route is on gravel roads and jeep track removes the need for high skill levels, but calls for exceptional stamina and mental focus.
Over 500 riders have entered the 2015 edition with half of those in the Solo category and the rest entered in the Half (180.5km) and Relay divisions.
“Some riders are returning this year for the fourth time, but have only been able to earn one finisher medal,” said Carel Herholdt of Dryland Event Management, the co-owners and organisers of the event. “That just confirms that the 36ONE MTB Challenge is a significant feat to complete and probably why it’s now starting to grow so fast.
“South Africans are drawn to difficult endurance sports events and with mountain biking having grown as big as it has, many are adding new events to their to-do lists; events that challenge them in a different way in different conditions, which is exactly what the 36ONE MTB Challenge does,” added Herholdt.
Back to defend his title is Dutch endurance racing specialist, Jean Biermans, who set a new record of 14 hours, 15 minutes and 26 seconds with his dominant victory last year. But he will be up against a much stronger field this year.
Former professional racer and winner of the two-man relay category last year, Charles Keey, will line up in the Solo category in an effort to claim the coveted title. Another prominent name entered in the Solo category is 2012 London Olympic rowing gold medallist, Matt Brittain.
Since retiring from competitive rowing last year, Brittain has become a committed mountain bike racer, having completed the recent Absa Cape Epic with a top-50 finish and is a regular top-10 finisher in most events he enters.
At total of 30 women have entered, up from 15 last year. Nineteen of them will compete in the Solo division, while the other 11 are in the Solo category for the Half-distance event.
There are also team and relay sub-events for those not up to the distance of the Solo challenge. The relay permits two-rider and four-rider teams to cover the full 361km distance or a two-rider team for the 180.5km half-distance race.
With detailed route markings and 10 well-stocked refreshment points that are accessible to the public, The 36ONE MTB Challenge is geared to being a race, not a survival test.
“We want the competitors to be able to focus fully on pedalling and not have to worry about their nutrition. We pride ourselves in the quality and quantity of nourishment we offer at the refreshment stations. Being mountain bikers ourselves, we understand the importance of consistent energy, especially in an ultra-endurance race like this,” said Herholdt.
For more information on The 36ONE MTB Challenge, visit www.the36one.co.za. For regular updates before, during and after the race, like the Facebook page: The 36ONE MTB Challenge and follow @The36ONE on twitter.