Gravel is growing in South Africa and the News24 Karoo Burn is primed to spark the kindling. With the R355, the country’s most infamous unpaved road, as the proving ground this is a must do event for any off-road challenger. At 242 kilometres in length; a standard hundred miler would call it a day when the race really gets going, at the Tankwa Padstal at the foot of the Katbakkies Pass.

Fans of a good time in the desert will already be familiar with the road. It leads, after all to AfrikaBurn’s Tankwa Town. While the bike race will feature less trance music, it will boast just as much dust, welcoming hospitality and a mutant bike would not be a bad idea for the News24 Karoo Burn either, which takes place on the 25th of February 2023.

The race starts in Calvinia at 05h00, on 25 February, meaning that competitors will race the first hour pre-dawn and witness a Tankwa Karoo sunrise at 06h30. Photo by Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.

“To be honest, the road isn’t great right now,” Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management confessed. “I’d recommend mountain bikes over gravel bikes. Or maybe a monster cross, hardtail 29er with drop handlebars…”

“The flash floods which swept through the Tankwa Karoo in December have done wonders for the veld, but the roads took a beating,” Rademeyer warned. “Never say never when it comes to the toughest riders completing a route on gravel bikes, but for anyone wanting to blend speed and comfort a mountain bike is the more sensible decision.”

Despite the distance the News24 Karoo Burn is made achievable by the superbly stocked Dryland Event Management water points. Photo by Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.

The imposing distance and the prospect of the African summer sun beating down on riders could make the notion of riding from Calvinia to Kaleo sound unfeasible. Yet, with Dryland Event Management’s famous support, the task becomes infinitely more achievable. The 242 kilometre route features six water points, with the first two well-spaced before coming at around 30 kilometre intervals from the 111 kilometre mark onwards.

For those still nervous of undertaking the challenge solo the event also features team categories. Racing as teams of two or four ensures a partner, or three, to always help set the tempo, to ride in the wind for half the race and to keep you company across the lonely desert planes. The alternative is to hope to hang onto a group, but that can often lead to hours of solo pedalling, riding in search of fellow strugglers after getting left behind at a water point.

Katbakkies Pass, located 168 kilometres into the 242 kilometre route, is the race’s major challenge. Photo by Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.

Entries to the team and solo categories remain open, until the 10th of February. Though would-be entrants are encouraged to confirm their participation before then in order to secure the optional extras, which include a vehicle drive service and accommodation at both the start and finish. For more information and to secure a ride in the 2023 News24 Karoo Burn visit www.karooburn.co.za.

2023 News24 Karoo Burn
Date: 25 February 2023
Start Venue: Laerskool Calvinia
Finish Venue: Kaleo Guest Farm
Distance: 242km with 1 950m of climbing
Water Points: 62km | 111km | 138km | 168km | 196km | 222km
Check Point: 168km at the Tankwa Padstal
Categories: Solo | Gravel | Mountain Bike | Mixed Team | Open Men | Open Women
Entry Fees: R1 990 per person
Website: www.karooburn.co.za
Facebook: Karoo Burn
Instagram: @karooburn
Twitter: @karooburn

Type II fun is guaranteed at the News24 Karoo Burn, but there will be moments of unbridled Type I fun out on the course too. Photo by Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.

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