You might have seen some social media posts around the Pursuit Challenge. Or you might not have. Either way, it launched officially today (30 July 2020) with Round 1 in South Africa. If you’re going to start a mountain bike racing challenge, might as well begin in the mountain bike race capital of the world, right? Whether you enter it or not, here are five reasons why the Pursuit Challenge matters.

By Sean Badenhorst

It’s open to anyone

As long as you have a mountain bike and a reasonable level of fitness, you can tackle the Pursuit Challenge. Okay, admittedly the first one at 84km is quite far, so maybe not everyone will be confident of finishing it. But subsequent challenges will be shorter, according to Pursuit Challenge organiser, Francois Theron, and over distances that most will be able to compete.

It’s got a long participation window period

Each round of the Pursuit Challenge will offer a multi-day period that includes at least one weekend (mostly two), giving sufficient time for anyone to tackle the challenge. If you want to improve your time, you can complete the challenge a second or even third time, as long as you buy another trail park pass for the relevant challenge venue.

It’s bringing racing back!

Sure, Zwift racing can be cool, but it’s not mountain biking! We have some super talented mountain bike racing pros in this country who, after a frustratingly long Covid-19 lockdown, are just gagging to compete again. Just as relevant are the hundreds of competitive men and women in the age group divisions who use racing as motivation, benchmarking and well, a reason to become – and stay – fit, strong and skilled…

It revives mountain biking’s roots

Mountain bike racing hasn’t always been as organised as it is these days. Before GPS and before mountain bike trails were built on someone’s land, we used to race ‘rough’. We had some route markings, but we pretty much used to take our own nourishment. That’s when hydration packs were essential. Races were admittedly shorter (in distance) back then, but even short races felt like adventures because bikes and gear weren’t quite as strong and efficient as they are these days. The Pursuit Challenge routes are marked, you just need to keep your eyes out for the markers. And each Pursuit Challenge is designed to be as safe as possible.

It supports local trails

Let’s face it, local mountain bike trails have become hugely important to us mountain bikers. But they need funding in order to remain viable. They also need funding for trail maintenance and improvements/additions to help keep them stimulating. The Pursuit Challenge will help drive more riders to the featured venue for each challenge, which can only be a good thing.

How does it work?

Well, in summary it’s essentially a time trial event that that you enter online (cost is R299 per person). Aramex delivers your race goodie bag (worth R800) and your race entry pass to give you access to the race venue. You must record your effort and upload it to Strava (or email the GPX file to the organisers) and they will generate a daily update to the results (refreshed at 07h00 each day). At the end of the Pursuit Challenge period, final results will show who finished where and some top performers will get prize money and prizes.

But if you’re really interested, check out the official site here:

If you don’t live near where a Pursuit Challenge event is happening, just be patient, they’re growing and will soon be coming to venues where most mountain bikers live.