The newly-announced Moon to Noon endurance race around Knysna will keep adventurous mountain bikers quite literally in the dark when they ride out at midnight on Friday, October 26.
In contrast to other long-distance events, which start in the day and finishes at night, the inaugural 170km race will set out under the stars and roll on into the early hours of Saturday morning.
“It’s all about seeing that there’s a different way to ride these events,” said race organiser Patric Mosterd of Garden Route Events, who is also the mastermind behind the Rocky Mountain Garden Route 300 and RE-CM Knysna 200 three-day stage races.
“It really levels the playing fields for pros and backmarkers alike, because from 12 to five o’clock they’ve all got to deal with the darkness.”
He said night racing offered some special challenges for riders. “You are essentially riding in a bubble and have to learn to trust yourself and your partner.”
Because of safety concerns, the field is limited to 300 and Mosterd said no solo riders would be allowed.
According to him, the event also presented a range of logistical challenges for organisers.
“The race is divided between dark and light, with a compulsory halfway stop at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains.
“We go over at first light and no vehicles or lead bikes can follow. So our whole safety and support infrastructure is split in two on either side.”
At 1 100 metres above sea level, riders would summit on a section of a hiking trail belonging to Garden Route National Park, said Mosterd.
“On the other side, there’s a 10km downhill, so we want everyone to be fresh and make sure that their brakes are working.”
Mosterd said the route started in Rheenendal just outside Knysna. “It goes through indigenous forest and then there’s a nice open road for about 10km so everybody will have a chance to find their positions.”
He expected the racing to start in earnest on the descent into the well-known Hydro, which is part of the original Absa Cape Epic route, before riders made their way up to Buffelsnek through more forest.
“There’s a full moon that night, which turns the mountains into silhouettes and it’s incredibly beautiful.”
Mosterd said front and back lights, as well as a cellphone, would be compulsory items of kit.
“When you hit the Uniondale road, you ride onto De Vlugt and then turn and go along a riverbed at the start of the Keurbooms River, before passing through the Kykoe and Noll settlements.”
Once over the mountain, he said riders would descend into typical Garden Route vegetation, with beautiful sea views and a number of river crossings.
“The Seven Passes farm road takes participants all the way back to the race village. The local community and farmers have all been very supportive.”
Mosterd said the race venue, Tottie’s Eatery, would be transformed into a country-style cycling village.
“Riders and their families are welcome to pitch their tents for a nominal fee and all proceeds will go to our beneficiary, the Knysna Sports School.”
Enter at www.gardenrouteevents.co.za until August 31.