South Africa’s longest single-stage mountain bike race, The 36ONE MTB Challenge, has grown steadily in popularity over the last few years as the ultra-endurance racing bug has taken hold of the South African mountain biking community. But despite its 361km distance and 5 200m of climbing The 36ONE is infinitely achievable for all mountain bikers; with a bit of training, intelligent management of pace and a solid nutritional plan.
In 2017 just under 1 000 riders rolled across the start line, with over half the field taking on the full 361km distance as solo competitors. Starting at 18:00, as the sun sets on the Klein Karoo, The 36ONE is unique among ultra-endurance events in that the entire full distance field spends the night on their bikes. The eerie glow of headlights and the red flicker of taillights is one of the lasting images of the event; along with Check Point Two, at Volmoed, where hearty home cooked meals and the support crews await to warm tired and cold riders after 180km on the bike. Thereafter the imposing Rooiberg Pass awaits, then Calitzdorp and the most beautiful section of the route, along the Nels River, back to Oudtshoorn.
With water points every 30km or so and with Dryland Event Management’s superb medical support on hand throughout the race never has an ultra-endurance event been so readily completeable. Just as long as you follow 36ONE double lapper, Martin Dreyer’s advice: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”