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It is not known as the Ultimate Race for nothing. The 36ONE MTB Challenge is unquestionably among the hardest days on a bike a mountain or gravel biker can submit themselves to in South Africa. As the name suggest the full Challenge route takes in 361 kilometres of racing, with 4 930 metres of climbing, as it circumnavigates the Klein Karoo. In 2024 the race will take place from 24 to 26 May and entries are open.
“The gauntlet has been laid down, to challenge yourself to the Ultimate Race,” smiled Henco Rademeyer, of Dryland Event Management. “We know it’s always an extremely tough race and riders go through incredible highs and lows. They battle the elements, especially the cold in the dark of the Klein Karoo night. But finishing is a feeling like no other and we do everything we can to make it possible for elite athletes, committed amateurs and serious fun riders alike to experience The 36ONE MTB Challenge.”
“I keep coming back to The 36ONE because of the incredible route, good road conditions and fantastic support along the way,” avid ultra-endurance racer Rebecca van Huyssteen endorsed. “It’s rare to ride an endurance race through the night and really feel safe and supported all the way. The organisers have done a great job providing riders with plenty of well-stocked water points, run by the most friendly and helpful people. It really makes the difference when the going get really tough.”
Anyone who, like Van Huyssteen, rode the 2023 36ONE MTB Challenge knows that the going can get really tough. Rain, mud and icy temperatures all took their toll. Every finisher had to work hard for their medal and will remember the type two fun they endured for years to come. That should however not put would-be riders off.
With well-stocked water points every 30 kilometres or so, and with three hospitable aid stations the full 361 kilometre Challenge is infinitely manageable. One simply needs to keep peddling. For those who are concerned about their ability to pedal it out, the Half presents an opportunity to experience the beauty of the second half of the route and the hospitality of the Klein Karoo communities manning the aid stations.
At 189 kilometres in length, with 2 900 metres of climbing, it is a harder day out than the majority of South Africa’s hundred milers. It is thus a good stepping stone event between the 100-Miler distance and true ultra-endurance races. Would-be riders can also take on the event in Relay Teams, with both a two- and a four-person relay option, allowing each rider to take on a section or two, from checkpoint to checkpoint.
2023 also saw the introduction of gravel bikes to the full Challenge for the first time. Some, like the race winner Wayne van der Walt were certain that riding a gravel bike helped them stay fresh for the second half of the course. While others, like Van Huyssteen, were less certain about their bike choices. It seems likely though that riders challenging for the race and category victories will opt for the efficiency of gravel bikes, while those riding to finish will prefer the comfort of a mountain bike. Though road and weather conditions will certainly affect each individual’s final decision in the weeks leading up to the race weekend.
Entries to the 2024 36ONE MTB Challenge open on 12 July 2023. Solo and Team entries for the 361 kilometre route are R3 200, per person, while Relay entries are R1 275, per person, for a four-rider relay team and R2 300, per person, for a two-rider relay squad. Solo and team entries to the 189 kilometre Half are R1 850, per person. Members of the Dryland Rewards programme who complete the 2024 event will earn 20 points towards their tier level status. The more Dryland events athletes complete, the more points they earn. When entering any race through the Dryland Rewards mobile application, those points will then make entrants eligible for a percentage of value back on the next Dryland Event Management race they enter.
For more information on the Dryland Rewards programme visit www.drylandrewards.co.za. To enter the 2024 36ONE MTB Challenge click through to www.the36one.co.za. Those needing more inspiration can follow @the36one on Instagram or like The 36ONE MTB Challenge Facebook page.