Now well established as an adventure sport mecca, the inaugural edition of a brand new gravel bike race called the Underberg Gran Fondo, has been unveiled for the end of July 2022.
Called the Underberg Gran Fondo after the Italian “Big Ride” moniker, the two races aim to offer a new event to the rapidly growing community of gravel bike riders in South Africa.
The signature 140km race will start at the Olde Duck, the base of the Sani Spoors organisers of the event on the Drakensberg Gardens road, and traverse across to the Bushman’s Nek region before heading into the Coleford Nature Reserve, then towards Pevensey before skirting back to Himeville, Underberg and returning to the race base.
The shorter 90km starts on the same route, and turns back to Underberg directly after passing through the Coleford nature reserve.
Both routes will use the network of district gravel roads and farms roads in the region, and are designed to maximize the views of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park world heritage site.
The race organisers have chosen the mid-winter timeslot deliberately to reduce the risk of rainfall that could make the district roads muddy and slippery, aware that riders and their supporters will be well prepared to deal with the cold associated with the Southern Drakensberg winters.
“Gravel bike riding is really growing in popularity right now, and as a region well known for its mountain biking, with the annual KAP sani2c and the year round riding at the Sani Spoors trails, we wanted to put together a gravel ride on the district roads that would take in the best of the Southern Drakensberg,” said organizer Pierre Horn.
“There is a good chance to see some of the local wildlife on the ride, from Eland to Blesbok to Wildebeest and, if you are lucky, the very rare Wattle Crane that is on the event logo,” he added.
Horn confirmed that e-bikes would be catered for and would race in a separate event with its own prizes.
He added that some riders were still tackling gravel rides in either road bikes or mountain bikes, but that both would be hard work for either of the long rides. “Gravel bikes are unique hybrid bikes that are ideally suited to the terrain and roads that we will be using, and would be strongly recommended for the Underberg Gran Fondo,” said Horn.