Top racers will have an added incentive when they start the 36ONE Mountain Bike Challenge, in Oudtshoorn, South Africa next week. Title sponsor, 36ONE Asset Management, has added R30 000 (approximately US $3 300) in cash incentives to the total prize purse for the mega-distance race.
The second edition of the 36ONE MTB Challenge takes place from Friday 19 until Sunday 21 April. It starts at 19h00 on Friday and gives participants – in solo, relay or team categories – 36.1 hours to finish the race route over a distance of 361 kilometres.
“The event is primarily an endurance test, but we wanted to spice it up a bit with some cash incentives for the first rider or team in each category to break certain time barriers for the race,” said Steven Liptz, co-founder of 36ONE.
“In addition to the R7 500 prize for the first solo male, we’ve added R5 000 should he break 17 hours. We have more depth in the race than we did at the inaugural event last year and believe that our incentive times are well within reach,” said Liptz.
The women’s race field is shaping up to be extremely strong. Hannele Steyn will line up to defend the title she claimed in 2012. But the 10-time ABSA Cape Epic finisher will have a battle on her hands against Oudtshoorn local, Yolande de Villiers, and Capetonian, Hanlie Booyens.
Both Booyens and De Villiers are former Cape Epic category winners and both are in good form, giving the women’s race a podium battle that’s likely to ensure the cash incentive to break 19 hours is virtually guaranteed to be paid out. Cash incentives will also be paid in the following categories to the first team to beat a specific time: Two-man team (16 hours), two-woman team (18 hours 30 minutes) and two-person relay (15 hours).
“Racing through the night and into the following day adds even more character to the event. Most of the participants in 2012 finished within 24 hours and we’ve brought the start time forward by two hours to ensure that most will finish before sunset on the Saturday,” explained Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Events, the organisers.
“We also moved the race a month earlier in the year to offer a bit more daylight and more pleasant night-time conditions.
“It’s not just a physical challenge, it’s also a mental challenge. That’s mostly why I’m returning to do the race this year,” said Dr Piet du Toit, a 55-year-old General Practitioner from Welkom in the Free State province.
“It’s also a unique event. I’ve done many marathons and stage races in the 18 years I’ve been cycling, but the 36ONE MTB Challenge is different. It’s not your average mountain bike event. The organisation is also superb. The attention to detail by Dryland Events staff makes my long journey to their events worthwhile.”
Because of the distance and the fact that the race starts at night, the 36ONE MTB Challenge route has been purposefully set to follow mostly gravel roads and uncomplicated jeep track. As result, it’s attracted more than just mountain bikers, with endurance specialists from other disciplines like road cycling and triathlon also being drawn to the mega-distance test.
The 36ONE MTB Challenge is also an ideal preparation event for the Freedom Challenge, at 2 300km, South Africa’s longest mountain bike race, which starts in mid-June, giving riders a chance to test their gear and their fitness progress. But it’s not only an event for seasoned endurance riders.
“The long distance is what makes the 36ONE MTB Challenge so tough. With around 5 000 metres of accumulated ascent over the whole race, it’s not really a hilly course,” said Rademeyer.
“It will be the longest distance I have ever ridden, but I’m keen on the challenge. I enjoy endurance tests and I like trying something new,” said Caren Henschel, a Cape Town mother of two.
“It’s not only an event for the super-endurance athletes. Any mountain biker with reasonable conditioning can compete in the 36ONE MTB Challenge as a two-rider or four-rider relay team. The teams complete the same course but ride either one (four-rider team) or two (two rider team) of the four route segments,” explained Rademeyer.