You’ll need to be an ‘yster’ to finish the News24 Karoo Burn gravel race

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Gaining experience, during a Karoo Burn race. (Photo: KarooBurn)
Gaining experience, during a Karoo Burn race. (Photo: KarooBurn)
  • South Africa’s longest gravel road, is an irresistible challenge for gravel riders and mountain bikers.
  • The News24 Karoo Burn will allow riders to test themselves against the R355. With all the support riders have come to expect from South Africa’s world-class event management.
  • Finishers will truly earn their medals, riding 242km non-stop and climbing some of the Western Cape’s steepest mountain passes.

The R355 is South Africa's most famous gravel road. Or most infamous - rather.

Famed for shredding the tyres of pilgrims on their way to Africa Burn, or those of motorcycle adventurers seeking isolation in the heart of the Tankwa Karoo. For cyclists, it holds a special attraction. It is the longest uninterrupted gravel road in the country and host to The News24 Karoo Burn.

Cyclists will have noted the increase in road, gravel and mountain bike coverage on South Africa's largest online news platform. Ride24, a subsidiary of the larger News24 website, provides a substantial amount of unique coverage on local and international races. Now the overarching platform has also announced its sponsorship of Dryland Event Management's race across the Tankwa Karoo and Koue Bokkeveld.

gravel bike
1. Smooth stretches of gravel are perfect for the efficiency of gravel bikes. (Photo: Justin Reinecke/zcmc.co.za.)

Content and the growing gravel trend 

"Nearly two years ago, News24 committed to focus on cycling and mountain biking in its editorial coverage," says News24's lifestyle editor, Herman Eloff.

"It's a lifestyle topic that has a passionate and committed community that has embraced us with open arms. Cycling editor Lance Branquinho and his talented team of writers have expanded our coverage to exciting new levels. Joining forces with The Karoo Burn event is the natural next step in expanding our commitment to the sport. We look forward to seeing you in the Karoo."

"We're looking forward to The News24 Karoo Burn already!" enthused Dryland Event Management's Henco Rademeyer, seven months out from the event. "The indomitable spirit the participants exhibit during the race is awe-inspiring. Look, the route is unquestionably tough and the heat plays its part too. But when riders enter The News24 Karoo Burn, they know exactly what they're in for. Yet they come prepared and eager for a long, hard, day on the bike."

gravel bike
1. The R355, between Calvinia and Ceres, is the longest uninterrupted gravel road in the country and provides 194km of the 242km News24 Karoo Burn route. (Photo: Justin Reinecke/zcmc.co.za.)

A huge day on the bike

Scheduled for 25 February, it will be the third edition of this testing 242km race. Starting in Calvinia the route heads south-west along the R355. Climbing initially, for the first 20km before an 80km descent lulls riders into believing it will be an easy day in the saddle.

The second half of the route is resolutely uphill, with a 70km grind to the Tankwa Padstal softening the legs for the true trial of the race. Then, 170km into course, the Katbakkies Pass provides the ultimate test of machine choice.

gravel bike
4. Katbakkies Pass is the pivotal point of the route and comes 200km into the race. (Photo: Justin Reinecke/zcmc.co.za.)

Katbakkies is no joke

Having turned off the R355 and started the trek west towards the finish line at Kaleo Guest Farm, Katbakkies is the decisive point in the race.

Rising 700m, from the Tankwa Karoo plateau into the rugged Koue Bokkeveld, in just 10km it begs the question: mountain- or gravel bike? The easier gearing of the mountain bike provides the option to spin up the pass. While the efficiency of the gravel bike required less energy expenditure, so theoretically one would be climbing fresher.

gravel bike
6. Dryland Event Management’s famous water points ease the strain of racing The News24 Karoo Burn. (Photo: Justin Reinecke/zcmc.co.za.)

Gravel or mountain bike?

Interestingly, the inaugural winner, in 2020, and this year's champion chose gravel bikes. While further down the field, those riding to tick a traverse of the R355 off their bucket-list, did so predominantly on mountain bikes.

From the highest point of the race, at the summit of Katbakkies, the route descends to Rietrivier, before an undulating final 40km completes the race to Kaleo.

gravel bike
1. The R355, between Calvinia and Ceres, is the longest uninterrupted gravel road in the country and provides 194km of the 242km News24 Karoo Burn route. (Photo: Justin Reinecke/zcmc.co.za.)

Not easy - but lots of support 

"Dryland does everything we can to make the 242km race that little bit easier," Rademeyer was eager to point out.

"Our water points are famously well-stocked and that helps fuel the riders for the longest uninterrupted gravel road in the country and the ascent of the Katbakkies Pass. Still, anyone who completes The News24 Karoo Burn is, as Carel Bezuidenhout used to say, an yster!"

Entries to the 2023 edition are open. The race can be undertaken solo and in teams of two or four riders. For entries and more information visit www.karooburn.co.za.

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