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HomeNewsGravel Racing Takes Center Stage at The Underberg Gran Fondo

Gravel Racing Takes Center Stage at The Underberg Gran Fondo

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This weekend, when the second Underberg Gran Fondo gets underway on Sunday, the town of Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg will be flooded with off-road bicycles, both mountain and gravel.

The event will once again draw competitors looking to make a good impression and capture first place in the numerous races.

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UNDERBERG GRAN FONDO PUTS GRAVEL RACING IN THE SPOTLIGHT

However, it will also draw a sizable number of social riders keen to experience the beauty of the Drakensberg foothills.

ALSO READ: Team Honeycomb buzzing ahead of Underberg Gran Fondo

The event is open to riders of all skill levels and offers three distances to pique the attention of both weekend warriors and racing snakes.

A few notable names looking to make their mark have once again drawn attention to the 140km showpiece race. Two of the top three finishers from 2022 are back for another shot at the overall title, with Alwyn Steenkamp and Brandon Downs braving the undulating gravel roads that encircle Underberg.

  • CONTENDERS

ALSO READ: Underberg Gran Fondo adds shorter route

Brent Yelland, a young rider from Durban North who will be competing in his debut gravel race, is a racer to watch out for because of his solid MTB and road racing backgrounds.

The seasoned triathlete Donovan van Gelder has a history of shining when the going gets difficult and might surprise. Andrew Hill, who entered the race late, will be someone to watch as long as he remains healthy and competitive.

Three riders from the Johannesburg-based Honeycomb Pro Cycling Team will be heading to KZN, and if Bradley Scott, Jaco van Dyk, and Casper Kruger cooperate to achieve a team goal, the KZN riders may find it difficult to cover all the strategies.

  • THE WOMEN’S RACE

Underberg Gran Fondo
Young Hayley Smith will be testing herself in her first gravel race at the Underberg Gran Fondo taking place this Sunday. Photo: Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

There won’t be any of the 2022 podium finishers competing in the women’s race this year, but there should still be an interesting tussle at the front of the field.

Hayley Smith of Bell Racing has entered her maiden gravel race and is looking to build on her recent success. The elite road cyclist turned MTB race champion Joanne van de Winkel from the Sandton City Cycle Nation squad will undoubtedly be her strongest adversary.

The seasoned ex-Olympian from Hillcrest will compete against Smith across the 140km race, reigniting their thrilling off-road rivalry that has grown over the last year.

Riders may also attempt the shorter 94km course, which is proving to be a popular choice for those who are uneasy about the lengthy 140km. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the promoters this year added the 45km Tour de Farms, which has generated a lot of interest.

As with any race in the Drakensberg in July, riders should expect temperatures to be in the teens rather than the 20s. However, the weather approaching Underberg is expected to miss race day and the cold to arrive on Monday.

  • WHO BACKS THE UNDERBERG GRAN FONDO

Sling Cycles, a local manufacturer of gravel bikes, has joined with the event this year, and they will have a display at the event on Sunday for anybody interested in buying a cheap gravel cycle.

ALSO READ: Underberg Gran Fondo takes flight with Sling Cycles

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