- A new two-day stage race aims to combine everything great
about gravel bikes and Karoo riding.
- The Tanqua Kuru race will, obviously, allow you access to the sensitive Tankwa Karoo national park and private farm land.
- Expect no shade, loose shale climbs, and lots of mindfulness on and off the bike.
Few landscapes challenge identity and restore the sense of self, like the Karoo. As gravel riding has surged in popularity, South African cyclists have taken to the Karoo, its generosity of space and diversity of possible routes.
The Tankwa Karoo, with its splendid desolation and challenging climbs, has been a destination for choice for gravel riders. It has hosted a range of eponymous races over the years, and the newest of these is the Tanqua Kuru.
Jeremy Crowder is the organiser and his wish is for an experiential event, celebrating the simple mechanical elegance and endurance of the gravel bike, within an extraordinary Tankwa environment. Although this is a two-day gravel stage race, with big climbs and cut off times, the Tanqua Kuru is primarily configured to be a deeply rewarding experience for off-road endurance cycling geeks.
You can attend and race on a mountain bike, but the spirit of Tanqua Kuru is to validate the suitability of gravel bikes to a vast swathe of local terrain. South Africa can rightfully claim to have the world’s richest diversity and beauty in terms of gravel bike routes and landscape, which the 180km route will reveal in abundance.
Big skies and climbs
The core Tanqua Kuru route starts on the legendary R355, which is one of South Africa’s most celebrated gravel roads. It then routes west, toward the Biedouwberg, navigating through private farmland, before tacking east again, towards the finish.
Day one of the Tanqua Kuru totals 110km of riding and there will be some terrifically testing climbs on the route, including the infamous Karretjies pass.
Although comparatively short, at 1.5km in distance and only ascending 72m of elevation, Karretjies pass can make even the most resolute gravel bike rider dismount and walk. Its surface is typical Tankwa, with loose shale and small stones conspiring to defeat all attempts of your back wheel, to generate traction and forward momentum.
Day two of the Tanqua Kuru will see riders enjoy the terrific privilege of access to the Tankwa Karoo national park. Despite being much shorter than day one, at only 70km, you’ll be riding through a truly stirring environment of untouched vastness.
Art and influential speakers from the cycling community
Beyond the riding, immersive cycling awareness is a significant theme with the Tanqua Kuru race. Riders will have the opportunity to observe some inspiring art that has been created along the route and witness those Karoo mountain sunsets, which are inarguably epic in scale.
There will also be a selection of cycling specialists speaking in the evenings, ranging from custom frame builders, bike shop owners and training experts. Some of the topics will explore how the boundlessly popular gravel bike movement is developing.
The Tanqua Kuru is scheduled for the weekend of 28-30 May and entries are R5900. Beyond the spectacular route, that price includes meals and tented accommodation, medical support staff and onsite photography.
If your partner is taken by the idea of this Tanqua Kuru experience, but not keen on riding, they can join socially, for R5000.