The Sappi Karkloof Classic was the final qualifying event for the Rainbow Challenge Final. // Image credit: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

The Sappi Karkloof Classic was the fourth and last qualifier for the Rainbow Challenge Final, which will take place at the Cascades MTB Park on Saturday 28 June, the day before the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships.

Riders also had the opportunity to qualify at the Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge in Limpopo, the Cape Argus Pick n Pay MTB Challenge and the Cradle Mountain Trophy in Gauteng, and close to 350 of those qualified have already entered the Rainbow Challenge Final.

With 2 784 Veteran and masters riders already eligible to compete for the Rainbow Challenge jersey in their respective age groups, the organisers have committed to capping the total number of entries to ensure the event remains manageable and a consistently good experience for every single rider. Entries for the event close on 15 June, but event director Alec Lenferna is adamant that they will limit the field if it is deemed necessary.

"Primarily we want to ensure that every single rider has a great time riding the race, and is safe too" said Lenferna. "There are also practical and logistical limitations, like the limited vehicle access to the course, but most of all we don't want a single rider's day on what is a remarkable course to be spoilt by having too many riders on the route."

Lenferna stressed that, while any rider – having qualified or not – will be allowed to ride in the Rainbow Challenge final on the 28th June, only those who have gone through the qualification process will be eligible for the Rainbow Challenge jerseys and title in each age group, and those who have not qualified will start in one final batch behind all the qualified riders.

“This allows those riders that are serious about competing for a prize at the sharp end of the race to do so but also allows the traditional MTB competitor who is not fighting for the jersey an opportunity to take part in a World Championships event on home soil – something that has never happened before and will in all likelihood not happen again for many years”, said Lenferna.

There was an excellent response from local cross country & downhill MTB riders to the UCI Masters MTB World Championships that were held prior to the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships at Cascades last year, and local road riders have consistently supported the UCI World Cycling Tour Final in their age group classes which saw the Final visit the Pietermaritzburg region in 2012.

"The Rainbow Challenge is a new concept instituted so as to allow amateurs wanting to take part in the Marathon World Champs to compete for a prize and the honour of winning their category because although traditionally anyone who has qualified has been allowed to ride in the World Champs, they have competed against the elites and don’t have anything to show for it.

The idea is closely linked to the UCI World Cycling Tour concept and based on the support that has been shown for the Masters World Champs in 2013, we are confident it will work well and we hope it will continue to grow and garner support around the world," added Lenferna.

"This will be the last MTB World Championships to take in South Africa for the foreseeable future, so local mountain bikers should take full advantage of this opportunity – especially those from KZN!" said Lenferna.

Due to the overwhelming interest in the Rainbow Challenge, entry limits may need to be applied in certain age categories and these will be announced soon so potential competitors are urged to enter as soon as possible so as to avoid disappointment.

The SA MTB Marathon Championships will take place on the 8th June on the same course as the World Championships which allows competitors an excellent opportunity to test the course before the Worlds and entries for this event can be submitted online at via the Cycling South Africa entry portal.