Underberg – With the 2023 edition of the Underberg Gran Fondo edging closer, Durban North rider Brent Yelland is eager to give gravel racing a shot on 30 July.
This year’s race will be looking to build on a successful inaugural event in 2022 and with the event and discipline set to grow nationally as it follows the increased interest worldwide. Following on from the success of the launch event in 2022, the Underberg Gran Fondo has been included in the prestigious Gran Fondo World Tour Gravel Series this year.
Heading into the 140km off-road shoot-out around Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg, Yelland is looking forward to giving the relatively new discipline a real crack.
“I’m not very familiar with the discipline and I’ve only ever done one race, that was the Berg 100 but I did it on a mountain bike,” Yelland said.
“I’ve now got myself a gravel bike and I was surprised that it was a lot more comfortable than I thought.
“I have done four-and-a-half to five hour rides and it was quite comfortable. I was worried it was going to be very bumpy,” the Varsity College student said.
Given that he is now on holiday, Yelland has used these last few weeks to get in some good miles as he lines up the Gran Fondo in just under three weeks’ time.
“My training hasn’t been too specific lately, but I’ve managed to get in a few long gravel rides in the Midlands which has been good for me and a good way to prepare.
“I want to see how Gran Fondo goes and then get a few more races under my belt, because I think I could make gravel racing a priority.
“It’s less technical than MTB and less tactical than road racing, so it’s a really good mix of the two disciplines.
“In road racing I find that, especially without a team, if you miss the move then that’s the end of your race, whereas with gravel racing you can still work your way back which makes it more appealing for individuals,” he added.
As the gravel racing discipline catches the imagination of riders worldwide, Yelland believes that it is perfectly suited for South Africa.
“I think it’s becoming so popular because it is safer than riding on the road and it gives riders the chance to be outside in nature but without the technical elements of MTB.
“It’s also a great way to explore an area. If you go on holiday you can take your bike with you and head out on long gravel rides,” Yelland mentioned.
Entries for the Underberg Gran Fondo are open, and you can enter here https://underberggranfondo.co.za/how-to-enter/