On the 14th of October gravel racers will gather in Prince Albert, at the northern foot of the Swartberg Pass for the grand finale of the inaugural Western Cape Gravel Cup. The second edition of the Prince George Monumental 100 Miler will take them up and over the Swartberg Pass, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, across the plains and rolling hills of the Klein Karoo and down the Montagu Pass, itself a National Heritage Site to George. Alongside the 160 kilometre main event, the race will also boast a 50 Miler in 2023, to provide a taste of the gravel action for those not keen for a massive day out on the bike.
“The first edition of the Prince George Monumental 100 Miler, in 2022, was a great success,” Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management said. “It was our first big foray into gravel racing. Our other gravel friendly races, like News24 Karoo Burn and the 36ONE MTB Challenge, have gradually evolved with the growth of gravel in the country into more gravel friendly events. In the case of the 36ONE, gravel bikes also had to become more capable too, because the route is pretty rough and uncompromising in places. The Prince George route though is 100% gravel friendly. It can of course still be raced on a mountain bike. It will probably be more comfortable; but it certainly won’t be faster, even on a hardtail.”
“We included a few testing sections last year, which were fun for some but maybe a bit hectic for most,” Rademeyer laughed. “But this year we’re working hard to make it all ridable. That means smoothing out the river crossings and sections which were short but compulsory portages last year. We’ve also changed up the route a bit, looping further south from the halfway point at Highgate rather than heading due east past Oudtshoorn.”
“The biggest change is the finishing venue though,” he noted. “This year we’ll be finishing at the Witfontein Forest Station, at the foot of the Montagu Pass, just outside George. It’s a beautiful venue and creates a fun downhill run to the final 200 meters, which are on a paved road. If the race has to be decided in a sprint the slight uphill drag to the line on a wide road will provide a spectacular finish!”
This year’s race will also see the introduction of a 50 Miler distance. Starting at Highgate Ostrich Show Farm the route will follow a similar, though slightly shorter route across the Klein Karoo to the summit of Montagu Pass, before descending to the finish line in George. The distance is ideal for eBike riders and racers keen to experience the open roads and scenic vistas of gravel biking. “The 50 Miler has real potential to develop into a junior gravel showdown,” Rademeyer said. “It’s short enough to be manageable on the smooth gravel roads, but also tough enough to provide a real test for aspiring young riders. The eBikers will of course enjoy it too, though they will have to manage their batteries carefully, or risk a heavy pedal through the final kickers near the bottom of Montagu Pass…”
Gravel racers will also be relieved to hear that the provincial road department are also hard at work on the surface of Montagu Pass. The pass was damaged by floods in the early winter months and it is currently closed for resurfacing. This should mean a smoother descent from the summit of the final climb frequent riders of the famous pass have experienced in many a year.
The race is also the final event in the five-race Western Cape Gravel Cup. Riders’ top four results count towards the overall standings and three finishes are required to qualify for a placing on the log. The first two events of the series, which were the Ronde van Riebeek and The Gallows, have already taken place, while The Cedar and the Boland Gravel Monster take place on back-to-back weekends in September. Bringing the series to a close, the Prince George Monumental 100 Miler is the final opportunity to score points in the series, before the prize giving and podiums for the Western Cape Gravel Cup are bestowed during the WC Cape XCO and XCM awards evening at the end of the season.
Already in the first year the race provided the opportunity for Strava KOM chasers, with Tristan Nortje setting a new best time from the Eerstewater river crossing to Die Top. It took the Toyota Specialized man 41 minutes and 23 seconds, which was 2 minutes and 19 seconds faster than Matthys Beukes’ previous KOM, to complete the 11.83 kilometre climb; which gains 845 metres at an average gradient of 6.6%. With ample segments on the gravel roads between Prince Albert and George still left to conquer, including the southern descents of the Swartberg and Montagu Passes as well as the northern ascent of the Montague Pass.
Entries to the 2023 event are open and would-be riders can find out more about the event by visiting www.princegeorge.co.za. To share in the excitement in the build-up to the race like the Prince George 100 Miler Facebook page and follow @princegeorge100miler on Instagram or @PrinceG100Miler on Twitter.
2023 Prince George Monumental 100 Miler
|Race Date:||14 October 2023|
|Start Venue:||Swartberg Hotel, Prince Albert|
|Finish Venue:||Witfontein Forest Station, George|
|100 Miler Route:||165km with 2 500m of climbing|
|50 Miler Route:||75km with 1 000m of climbing|
|50 Miler Start Venue:||Highgate Ostrich Show Farm|
|Entry Fees:||100 Miler: R1 950.00 | 50 Miler: R950.00|
|Facebook:||Prince George 100 Miler|