Records tumble at mega-distance 36ONE MTB Challenge

    Starting at 19h00 on Friday, the riders endured a full night's racing and enjoyed pleasant weather conditions. Photo: oakpics

    A number of records tumbled at the second annual 36ONE MTB Challenge 361-kilometre non-stop mountain bike race in and around Oudtshoorn in South Africa’s Western Cape province at the weekend.

    Starting with a record field – a 40% increase over the inaugural race in 2012 – the mega-distance event, which set riders off at 19h00 on Friday night with a 36.1 hour cut-off, saw the first record fall when the first team arrived at the finish in a time of 14 hours 20 minutes and 58 seconds. Not surprisingly, it was a two-rider relay team; but what was surprising, is that it was the Karoo mixed team of Yolande de Villiers and Neill Ungerer.

    Their time was more than one hour faster than the top time of 15:27:13 set in 2012 by an all-male team and it secured them a cash bonus in addition to their prize money for breaking 15 hours.

    But Solo was the biggest category and it was here that significant respect was earned as riders pedalled through Friday night and most of Saturday with the last riders – Mike Roller and Brandon Hengherr – completing the event together in a time of 28 hours 32 minutes and 29 seconds.

    Charles Nienaber, a 53-year-old gynaecologist from Klerksdorp, in the North West province, was the first solo racer to finish. He clocked a time of 17 hours 07 minutes and 23 seconds, eclipsing last year’s solo winning time of 18:17:41 by 70 minutes. But he fell just short of breaking the 17-hour mark, which carried an additional R5000 incentive.

    Sunrise in the Klein Karoo region was breathtakingly beautiful on Saturday morning. Photo: oakpics

    “I wasn’t actually aware that I was leading and probably would have pushed harder for a faster time. But going into the last 40 kilometres there was a headwind and I found myself dawdling a bit. I even stopped to look at some pigs next to the road,” he chuckled.

    Nienaber only entered the 36ONE MTB Challenge at the last minute since he was in the area to compete in the South African Masters Road Cycling Championships earlier in the week.

    “I called a mate of mine and asked him to bring my mountain bike when he came to the SA Road Champs. I didn’t specifically prepare for the 36ONE MTB Challenge at all, but I did do the recent Cape Epic and had good endurance in me still it seems. I am foremost a mountain biker, so it was a nice bonus to win such an enjoyable event. It was a very well organised race in a beautiful part of the country,” added Nienaber.

    The first solo woman home was Hanlie Booyens, also setting a new record. Her time of 18 hours 24 minutes and 33 seconds wasn’t only significantly faster than the 2012 winning time of 19:43:24, but it also placed her in an impressive fourth place overall. She collected a cash incentive bonus for breaking 19 hours.

    Riders head through a train tunnel during the 36ONE MTB Challenge. Photo: Oakpics

    The unique event enjoyed good weather and saw a number of combinations tackle the team and relay team categories. First team home was George Nel and Wynand Mulder, who narrowly missed breaking 17 hours with a time of 17:00:09, but smashed the previous record by just over an hour.

    “It’s evident that the 36ONE MTB Challenge is gaining momentum, both in terms of entry numbers and the faster times throughout all categories, which indicates greater depth,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Events, the organisers.

    “I foresee the 36ONE MTB Challenge growing quickly into an annual highlight on the ultra-endurance event calendar. South Africans have always had a strong interest in endurance sports events and now, with the 36ONE MTB Challenge, mountain biking has an event to match other world-famous South African endurance sports events.”

    “The 36ONE MTB Challenge is so different to other bicycle races. It’s a significant challenge, but the vibe is a lot more intimate and informal. The growth of the event, combined with the great spirit and amazing performances by the riders made it truly amazing. I couldn’t be happier,” said Steve Liptz, co-founder of 36ONE Asset Management, the title sponsor of the event.

    “Not only is the 36ONE MTB Challenge a very challenging ultra-distance event, but it’s also an event that almost anyone can do. The solo category caters for the extremists, while riding the whole distance as a team offers the element of support and company. A relay team of two makes it a tough challenge for fit riders, while a four-rider relay team gives relative newcomers an opportunity to participate,” added Liptz.

    After seeing that nine riders over the age of 60 had entered the solo category, Liptz confirmed that from 2014, riders over the age of 65 will get free entry to the race.