The 2022 The Karoo Burn gravel and mountain bike race, where participants can experience the Northern Cape in all its splendour by taking on the notorious R355 from Calvinia to Kaleo Guest Farm near Ceres, took place on 19 February. The summons to contest, by taking on the longest uninterrupted straight gravel road in South Africa, attracted double the number of participants since its inception in 2020.
The event was staged by Media24 as media partner and initiator of this race, along with the experienced organisers from Dryland Event Management and the support from the dedicated team at Northern Cape Tourism.
An early start at 05:00 am in Calvinia was welcomed with a crisp morning and a light tailwind pushing participants along, giving them a head start for the 242km day ahead.
The big bunch of lights entered the dusty Tankwa Karoo before sunrise and soon they started spacing out as the route unfold. Up until Waterpoint 1, there was a group of about 6 riders taking the lead until Wade Harris, Bennie Viljoen and Jaco Davel broke away from everyone. The race was on with weather conditions on their side resulting in an average pace of about 35km/h. Wade Harris flew by Waterpoint 2 without stopping but soon was caught by Jaco Davel.
“A breakaway by me after 60km was perhaps a bit too early being caught at km140 and simply couldn’t hold the pace any longer”, said Wade Harris. Davel took the lead and kept on going with a strong and steady pace increasing the gap from the rest of the field.
“Up until the Tankwa Padstal, the gravel was mostly smooth and gravel bikes had the advantage. Katbakkies was relentless and one can easily forget that the tarred section is just the beginning. From here until the end, the conditions favoured mountain bikes. The roads were more corrugated and rocky, with frequent steep, short climbs. I had to fight the fatigue to make it to the finish, but being alone, I could focus on riding my own pace and taking in enough fluids and food. Fortunately, I had no mechanicals and everything worked out well in the end”, Davel explained.
The 48-year-old Davel and his gravel bike, broke his own course record by a phenomenal 1 hour and 40 minutes, with a winning time of 8 hours and 10 minutes and a 27 minute lead on the second place earned by Wade Harris.
The first men’s team to cross the finish line was Niel Rossouw and Theuns van der Bank with their mountain bikes, taking overall third position.
Francis Visser was the first woman to cross the finish line with a winning time of 16 hours and 57 minutes competing in the solo mountain bike category.
The rest of the field continued their journey by crossing the unknown nothingness, digging deep to keep on going when the body don’t want to. Katbakkies Pass was without a doubt the biggest challenge of the day with a never-ending climb of 700m vertical ascent over 10 kilometres. The morning’s tailwind soon started changing to a crosswind and turned into a bumper headwind for the middle to back of the field for the last 30km’s of the day. As with the previous race, the wind seemed to be the biggest challenge as the temperature stayed within the low 30’s and was manageable.
The corrugated road surfaces and flash floods from recent rains claimed a fair amount of slashed tyres, but it seemed like riders were well prepared as 90% of the field managed to reach the finish line and all of them werer within the 20 hour cut-off mark.
Views full results here: Karoo Burn Results – The Karoo Burn