The Southern Drakensberg will host a defining new chapter in the growing interest in gravel bike riding when the inaugural Underberg Gran Fondo is staged over two distances on Sunday 31 July.
The elite racing will focus on the 140 kilometre layout that starts at the Old Duck Café outside Underberg before traversing district roads through Bushmans Nek then down towards Coleford and through Pevensey to Himeville before returning the race HQ on the Drakensberg Gardens road, having climbed 2533 metres.
The shorter 93 kilometre option starts on the same route before returning to the finish along the R617, with a total ascent of 1719 metres. This distance will also host the eBikes that have been welcomed into the event.
The key 140km race gets under way at 8:30am on Sunday morning, with cool overcast weather expected for the bulk of the day, and the 90km race starts half an hour later.
The entry features a wide variety of men and women, with many of the seasoned riders excited to get involved in a new mid-winter competitive outing.
The men’s field includes the ultra-distance racer Kevin Benkenstein, who is no stranger to the front bunch at the iconic Munga rides. This distance will be well short of his ideal ride but his exceptional base will place him at the vanguard of the race.
The women’s race includes the entry from respected Durban Team EdgeUp Life rider S’annara Grove, a regular feature at the front of the women’s peleton at major road race classics, and with good gravel experience behind her, she will be a rider to watch in the women’s race.
The event hosts Sani Spoors have promised a memorable experience aimed at maximizing the views of the Southern Drakensberg and building on the hospitality that Underberg and Himeville have built up a reputation for.
“One thing Sani Spoors emphasises is that we value community involvement and support and contribute to cycling development, local charities and schools in a very positive way,” said race spokesperson Pierre Horn. “We are active change agents.”