The Southern Drakensberg town of Underberg will be inundated with off road bicycles – both mountain and gravel – this weekend, as the second edition of the Underberg Gran Fondo sets off on Sunday.
The event will once again attract those that are out to impress and win the various races but will also attract a large group of social riders eager to take in the splendour of the foothills of the Drakensberg.
With three distances available to perk the interest of both the racing snakes and the weekend warriors, the event caters for riders of all abilities.
The 140km flagship event has once again attracted a handful of top names eager to make their mark. Back for another crack at the overall crown are two of the top-three finishers from 2022, with Alwyn Steenkamp and Brandon Downs tackling the rolling gravel roads that surround Underberg.
Young Brent Yelland from Durban North will be taking on his first gravel race, but with his strong MTB and road racing background he will be a rider to look out for.
The experienced Andrew Hill has put in a late entry for the event, and he will remain someone to watch as he remains fit and competitive, while evergreen triathlete Donovan van Gelder has a reputation for shining when the going gets tough and could spring a surprise.
The Johannesburg-based Honeycomb Pro Cycling Team will be travelling to KZN with three riders and if Bradley Scott, Jaco van Dyk and Casper Kruger work together for a team result, the individual KZN riders could struggle to cover all the tactics.
On the women’s front there won’t be any of 2022 podium finishers at the year’s race, however there looks sure to be an exciting duel at the front of the race.
Bell Racing’s Hayley Smith has entered her first gravel race and will be hoping to continue her good form this year. Her biggest challenge is sure to come from top road rider turned MTB race winner, Joanne van de Winkel from the Sandton City Cycle Nation team.
The experienced former Olympian from Hillcrest will battle it out with Smith over the 140km event and will renew an exciting off-road rivalry that has developed over the year.
Riders will also be able to tackle the shorter 94km route that is also proving to be a popular option amongst riders who are nervous about the long 140km. At the other end of the scale, the organisers have this year introduced the 45km Tour de Farms and there has been a lot of interest in the new short route.
The weather approaching Underberg is set to miss the riders and the cold weather arrives on Monday, however, as with any event in the Drakensberg in July, riders can expect temperatures to be teens rather than the 20s.
This year the event has partnered with Sling Cycles, a local manufacturing company that makes gravel bikes and they will have a display at the event on Sunday for people interested in purchasing an affordable gravel bike.