This forms the backdrop of our race. The Road To Desolation is a gravel race through the semi-desert area of the Karoo in South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its extent is also not precisely defined. So too, our Race is slightly ambiguous and its rigours speak to the area itself. With two options available to test your mettle against the environment and other riders, The Road To Desolation is no mean feat.
Two unique choices face interested participants, Road to Desolation (178km) and A Taste Of Desolation (65km), to choose your course and your approach. The longer version will only be open to drop-bar Gravel Bikes, whereas the shorter version can be raced on anything, as long as it doesn’t have a motor! No matter which you choose, the last 7km’s will be a reminder that you have taken on The Road To Desolation.
“A guy that rides 700 million miles with a bicycle likes bicycle riding.” –that’s how Johan from the Odesa nursery in Graaff-Reinet sums up our race.
Road to Desolation
179KM | 2773M Elevation
R.T.D The full race
As its name suggests, this one is going to empty the tank. An onslaught of 179km’s with nearly 2800m of vertical gain. Road to Desolation is a true test of racing in these vast expanses and is a real test of attrition. Restraint is key as the mountain-top finish up to The Valley Of Desolation will decimate anyone who hasn’t left a little in the tank for finale.
The race leaves the small town of Graaff-Reinet in a North-Easterly direction. After a 3km neutralised start, the race flag drops as the riders make a right turn onto a gravel road at dawn. The smooth gravel and the fresh morning air may lead some into a false sense of security but the slight incline of the first 40km’s and the inevitable attacks are sure to put some in trouble early on.
85% Gravel 15% Paved
4:00PM for anyone entering the Climb to the Valley of Desolation
41km, 78km, 107km, 154km
06:31:03 h (Marc Pritzen ’23)
66KM | 1287M Elevation
The Short Race
At over 1200m of vertical gain in 65km’s suggests, this is no walk in the park, again a climb out of the valley awaits those who opt for the ‘easy’ route. With a late start and unique route, this one is going to sting. A high-paced affair from the gun is anticipated and one must make sure not to burn all their matches before the brutal ascent that will decide the victor.
60% Gravel 40% Paved
4:00PM for anyone entering the Climb to the Valley of Desolation
Done and dusted is what we would usually say in the Karoo but this year was quite the opposite.
Thanks to everyone making this race a memorable day out. See the results below.
Important: Please read the rules.
§1.1 You will ride across some fragile Ecosystems and protected areas, leave nature unchanged.
§2.1 As the event uses roads open to traffic you must always know, obeserve and comply with local laws.
§2.2 Helmet and front+rear lights are mandatory.
The organisation strongly recommends you to make sure you are prepared for cold in the morning and high heat during the event.
§3.1 Just use your bike, that’s all
§4.1 This is a semi self supported event. We will have depending on the route one or four water points.
§4.2 You must bring the following documents for the accreditation: ID document and the signed official rider agreement and the following gear: helmet, rear and front lights, Race number board on the seat post, Tools and spares, Nutrition and hydration, survival blanket.
The Organisation strongly reccomends you always bring, SOS kit, food for at least 6 hours of riding, sunscreen, leg/arm warmers and gloves
§5.1 You must follow and complete the full official route. You can temporarily leave it (to find food, rest etc.) but you must return to the same point you left off to continue the ride.
§5.2 The Organisation will send you the handbook and the track files some weeks before the start. You must strongly prepare and study it.
§6.1 You will be punctual at the accreditation, the briefing and the start.
§6.2 After the official time limit you can’t expect any official service or support, but although the event ends your ride can go on… so just relax and enjoy the route.
§7.1 You must have liability, death and health insurance valid during the event, covering emergency extraction and repatriation insurance.
§7.2 Be aware that all liability rests on you. The organization won’t provide you any kind of insurance for the ride and will not held liable for any damage whatsoever that may occur directly or indirectly to you or other parties.
§8.1 This project is possible thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of all our volunteers. Please be nice to them, they have been working hard spending their time and effort to support this ride.
§8.2 follow the crew indications, they just will do it just for your safety and the good progress of the event.
§9.1 The Organisation can impose time penalties for violations which will be decided once the event is finished. But this shouldn’t happen.
Ride Safe and nice. Let this be a fair event.
Our event is now an official CSA sanctioned event. Please make sure you sign up with Cycling South Africa or on the new CSA app to purchase your Membership License. CSA membership license is R50, or you can buy an annual membership for R250. As this is a CSA sanctioned race and we have two race distances, the age of participants need to be 19+ by 31 Dec 2023.
*Licenses will not be sold at the event and should be purchased before.
12 July (Friday) 2pm – 7pm at LOT44, 44 Sommerset street, Graaff-Reinet
The weather in the Karoo can be unpredictable.
In Graaff-Reinet the weather in July is generally perfect, with pleasant temperatures and low rainfall. July falls within the winter season. Throughout the daytime, temperatures often hover around 19°C (show in °F). However, as the sun sets and evening approaches, there’s a noticeable cool-down, with temperatures gently dropping to a more temperate 5°C. While this is the time of year with slightly cooler averages, it remains comfortably warm.
Graaff-Reinet in July usually receives low rainfall, averaging around 19 mm (show in inches) for the month. Rain is expected on roughly 3 days.
We encourage all participants to treat The Road to Desolation as a self-supported race/ride and entry is at your own risk. The safety and well-being of our riders is however paramount. There will be a medical support vehicle & ambulance en route in case of emergencies. Please be sure to save the necessary emergency contact numbers provided via email and at registration.
Yes. The course will be marked, however it’s important to load the route onto your cycling computer if possible as we’ll be riding on remote roads.
There will be 4 water points in the long race and 1 water point in the short race. We urge you to bring the nutrition you normally use. That said, the water points will be stocked with fluids, gels and assorted food. Please make sure you have what you need in order to fix mechanical failures out on the course. Things like extra tubes, plugs, pump, hex keys, etc.
Reception in the Sneeuberg Mountains is sparse. However, we insist that all riders carry their cellphones and keep them on at all times. Should something happen out on course, it’s important to be able to ask a rider to call course staff at the next available spot.
The best way will be by car but Graaff-Reinet has a Private Airport as well. The closest commercial Airport is Port Elizabeth about 2.5hrs away. Please contact us to arrange a shuttle.
Graaff-Reinet, surrounded by Camdeboo National Park, is classified as a malaria-free area. It is, however, recommended that guests contact their local travel clinic for advice on the necessary precautionary measures for visits to this region.
Graaff-Reinet is a small town, and importantly, does not have a bike shop. However, there are very limited spares available at Botha’s Garage in town. Please bring what you need. You’ll find convenience stores, gas stations and restaurants but be aware of opening hours. The stores will not be open before the majority of riders head out on race day. Make sure to get what you need in advance.
We don’t offer accommodation as part of the race entry to make it accessible to anyone. Graaff-Reinet has plenty of options of accommodation for any budget. From 5 Star hotels to a Campground. Everything in town is within 5min cycle to the start. Nonetheless here are some reccomendations:
Drostdy Hotel | from R1763 pp
Langhuis guesthouse | from R1350 pp
Far Far away house | from R1200 double room
We reccomend to spectate in Nieu Bethesda as well as up to the finish on top of the The Valley of Desolation. We will offer a shuttle to the top of the valley for all day guests on raceday free of charge. – since we are welcome in a national park all you will have to cover is the conservation fee on the day. If they don’t care about the race – The town has a great opportunity for walking and running and numerous other interesting things to do from Museums to shops and restaurants.
Still got questions? Drop us a message here