- One of South Africa’s best-loved mountain bike events returns this September.
- Karoo to Coast weather conditions can be unpredictable. But great rider camaraderie helps to counter any annoyance when that happens.
- And one of the best parts of any Karoo to Coast, is the pre-event dinner. In Uniondale.
The Klein Karoo hosts some of South Africa’s most brutal mountain bike events. Attakwas and 361 are rites of passage that few mountain bikers willingly choose.
But for more than two decades, there has been a single-day mountain bike event, starting in the Klein Karoo, that resonates with many riders. After a two-year pandemic regulation hiatus, Karoo to Coast returns this September.
Routing 96km, from Uniondale to Knysna, the Karoo to Coast is scheduled to test 4 600 riders across some of the Klein Karoo and Garden Route’s most rewarding terrain.
An easier surface out of Uniondale
The climbing profile registers 1560m, including some of the most iconic off-road mountain passes in South Africa.
Karoo to Coast veterans are well acquainted with the challenge of Prince Alfred’s pass, although the first climb, rising out of Uniondale, has benefitted from a gradient machine, making the Ou Wapad less brutal.
Unlike Attakwas, which is always a heat risk ride in the Klein Karoo, South Africa’s 'longer' winters have been kind to Karoo to Coast riders. The 2019 event suffered severe conditions with driving rain, powerful winds and even hail.
The great storm of 2019
Organisers are hoping for milder conditions. "I will never forget 2019," remembers Zandile Meneses, the CCPP Group Lions Karoo to Coast race director for the past 20 years.
"I’ve never experienced anything like that in an event before. We had to call the manager of PEP in Uniondale, to open the shop so we could buy every blanket in the store and most of Knysna’s stock."
"We then enlisted nearly every taxi service in Knysna to help evacuate riders from the course. The sports fields, at the finish, turned into a quagmire. It even hailed briefly at Simola."
You come for the riding - and the food
Karoo to Coast race day strategy should never leverage weather – which is unpredictable. The broad theme is that prevailing tailwinds through the route’s kloofs and climbs help everyone along, towards the coast.
For the most competitive riders, benign tailwinds can help frontrunners challenge the course record, while also all riders enjoy working with a breeze instead of riding headlong into it.
Uniondale is waiting for its Karoo to Coast riders to return, after the torrential storm of 2019. And as experienced Karoo to Coast riders know, one of the event’s greatest charms is the Saturday evening pre-race dinner, expertly prepared by local women.
The first post-pandemic Karoo to Coast is scheduled for 25 September. Entries are R670.