- There aren't many weekend mountain bike events that deliver a greater challenge than the 360NE.
- It loops the Klein Karoo, and riders have 36.1 hours to complete it.
- Ideal conditions saw a Namibian rider set the new course record, previously held by a Swiss.
But the 360NE ranks as a significant achievement in the resume of any local mountain bike racer.
The formula is simple: 361km with a cut-off at 36 hours and ten minutes. That's a huge distance to ride in a day and a half.
Making the 36ONE even more challenging is dealing with the darkness. Riders start at 15:00 and ride throughout the night, enduring bitter Karoo cold – and the kind of isolation that doesn't sit well with all competitors.
The record reclaimed by an African rider
This year's 36ONE saw a new course record. Namibia's Drikus Coetzee bested all his South African rivals to win in a time of 13:17.50, on Sunday morning.
Coetzee beat the previous 36ONE record, set by Switzerland's Kenny Looser, which stood at 13:26.14.
The 360NE is part strategy, part grit. And Coetzee applied both of these elements masterfully.
Namibian grit grinds a new record
"From about 15km out I knew I was inside the record," Coetzee said, after the win. "But I wanted to empty the tank. Last year I came close, but made a mistake in the last 100m, which put me out of contention in the sprint with Konny [Looser] and Christiaan [Janse Van Rensburg]."
"I knew from last year that I could break the record, and conditions were perfect for it. We only had a short section of headwind, approaching the first checkpoint at Louvain. It was a nearly perfect ride."
The endurance queen reigns supreme
Oudtshoorn local Yolande de Villiers predictably won the women's category, although she did not improve on her own course record.
Although its sheer distance impresses mots, what is not appreciated, is the amount of climbing that 360NE finishers must complete.
The route takes in many of the Klein Karoo's iconic gravel road mountain passes and totals 5000m of vertical ascent. Riders effectively climb five Table Mountains on their 361km adventure.
Gravel bike can only go halfway
An interesting aspect of the race's evolving technical rules, is that gravel bikes aren't allowed on the full 36ONEdistance.
Lighter and faster-rolling than mountain bikes, gravel bike riders are only allowed to ride the 36ONE half event, which totals 180km.
Whether setting a new course record or merely finishing, all 360NE riders become authoritative on all aspects of saddle comfort and general mountain bike ergonomics.