One-hundred-and-twenty-five riders caked in dust and dirt crossed the gravel finish line at this year’s gruelling Tanqua Kuru Bicycle Race set in the heart of the Tankwa Karoo. The two-day stage race covered 170 kilometres of rough terrain, testing riders’ ability, stamina, and sense of humour. Designed to be a race unlike any other, its core focus is to step into another world surrounded by likeminded people for a weekend.
Taking home the ladies title for the long course was Rebecca van Huyssteen, who beat last year’s winner Tegan Phillips who placed second this year, with Renata Bossi coming in third. For the men, Julian Robinet claimed first place, with Pieter Calitz coming in second and Schalk Blom, third. In a new and shorter course, introduced this year, Grant Clarke proved he had what it takes to claim first prize.
After a day in the saddle, riders got to enjoy luxuries like hot jacuzzies, ice-cold beers and top-notch cuisine in a fully catered pop-up restaurant and bar. Special touches like crispy white linen, duvets, lights, charging points, electric blankets, flushing loos and great showers made for an incredibly comfortable experience. And this year’s spectacular display of drag racing with three aircrafts aerobatics by the Sling Air pilot James Pitman was a highlight for many.
The route presented three river crossings with a combination of rocky, sandy and corrugated terrain in places as well as flat pan. Wide tyres at low pressure were the favourite choice for many riders. On the Saturday a solid wind picked up making the trip home very tricky, especially the back markers, but with a lucky tailwind setting in for the last few kilometres, it meant leaving no-one behind.
Race organiser, Jeremy Crowder: “Riders often underestimate the harshness of the Tankwa Karoo, while there is almost no climbing, there are no free miles, it caught many riders off guard. But it’s clearly not enough to have scared anyone off, with riders returning for a second year. It’s a great way to get out into nature and push your body and mind doing something you love.”
Gravel bike racing has grown in popularity with more events popping up each year, but what makes Tanqua Kuru stand out is its unique focus on the experience and the full value it offers. Riders also encounter surprising and sometimes bizarre installations on route. Instead of the usual water stops found at most standard cycling races, riders were able to stock up on delicious charcuterie, fresh seasonal fresh fruits, freshly cooked steak rolls and of course a brandy and Coke. All lovingly curated by a team of creative geniuses.
The race has been specifically designed to test a modern gravel bicycle; however, this year a strong MTB contingent made itself present. The idea is that all people who love bicycles come together to take part. Entries for the 2023 Tanqua Kuru Bicycle Race open on 1 November. The event will be kept small to ensure the personal nature of the event is kept intact as well as the impact on the land, much of which is on private land.
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Source: Gwen Sparks Content & Publicity