In addition to the 530 registered solo riders for the full route there are another 136 riders registered to ride the long route with a teammate. The remaining entrants are either racing The 36ONE in relay teams of two or four, or racing the ‘short’ distance 180 kilometre option either on their own or as a team of two.
The 361 kilometre route, it is clear, is no longer the daunting challenge it once was. When 36ONE Asset Management and Dryland Event Management conceived the event in 2011 – the first event took place in 2012 – they fully expect the relay options to remain the most popular entry options. Part of the growth in entry numbers is surely down to the trend towards an increase in the popularity of ultra-distance events both in South Africa and internationally in mountain biking circles. Races like the Leadville Trail 100 MTB even feature lotteries for entries. The other determining factor in the increasing popularity of The 36ONE MTB Challenge is the famous Dryland hospitality. Never has 361 kilometres in on single stage race seemed so possible. From the water points; with the tables fully laden with endurance fuels, including Biogen products, home-baked banana bread, boiled potatoes, koeksisters, date-balls, biltong and more; to the check points, where a hearty meal awaits at each. Plus, of course, the oasis-like race village of Kleinplaas Holiday Resort where lush lawns, a swimming pool and a race finishers’ Lunch/Dinner, depending on each riders finishing time, awaits from 14:00 on Saturday afternoon until 02:00 in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The event organisers decided to close the entries earlier this year though “ultimately we could take this event to 1 500 riders this year, but we will never compromise the quality we offer – we feel that we need to limit entries annually. Entries have actually been full for a while, with additional registered riders being added to a waiting list” Henco Rademeyer, of Dryland Event Management explained.
“This year riders will see an increase in our water point offerings, as well as a new window period whereby spectators can only get to checkpoint one during a certain time. This is to ensure that riders are safer and do not have to ride in the dust while following vehicles. It is hard to better our water points, but with Biogen on board for The 36ONE MTB Challenge in 2017 riders can expect an increase in the offerings, both at the water points and at the finish line” Rademeyer concluded.
The racing at The 36ONE MTB Challenge promises to be more tightly contested than ever before for the 2017 edition too. Course record holder Jean Biermans, is set to return after a disappointing outing in 2016 where illness forced him to withdraw. Last year’s champion, Tom Wetton will also be lining up to defend the title he won in a time of fifteen hours, eleven minutes and fifty four seconds. The dark horse for this year’s race is Dutch rider Ramses Bekkenk. Bekkenk is an experienced twenty four hour endurance campaigner and is one of the top beach racers in the Netherlands. How Bekkenk’s undoubted talent for racing on wind swept beaches of his homelands will translate to the undulating route through the Klein Karoo remains to be seen though, but his presence will surely add to the excitement of the 2017 event.
The 361 kilometre route gains 5 250 meters in elevation as it circuits the Klein Karoo basin. From Oudtshoorn the route heads north then east to De Rust for the first 81 kilometre section of the race. Section two travels south towards the Outeniqua Mountains and then turns west at Daskop, and on to the half-way mark at Volmoed. The Half riders join the fray at Volmoed for their 180 challenge, which starts with the toughest sector of the race; the 97 kilometres south of the Gamkaberg and into the long and steep climbs of the Rooiberg, before the welcome sight of Calitzdorp greets the weary riders. From Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn only 81 kilometres remain but the corrugated roads via Kruisrivier and Lategansvlei make it anything but easy, especially with 280 kilometres already in the legs.
If you have not secured an entry to experience The 36ONE MTB Challenge in 2017 you can do so vicariously by liking the Facebook page or following @The36ONE on Twitter. To find out more about the race visit www.the36one.co.za.