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Thrills and triumphs in Ulco as 2023 Tour de Ghaap MTB Challenge makes its mark

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With September 9 and 10, etched into the annals of history, Ulco played host to an electrifying spectacle that had both pedal-pushing heroes and spellbound spectators at the edge of their seats.

Seen from left are the winners from the men’s devision: Annalie Jansen (Berg Farmers association), Johan Botha (third), Dusty Day (first), Andre van Rooyen (second) and Pierre Murray (BHG Aluminium). Picture: Pieter Niemann

The sleepy town of Ulco, hidden away just 80 kilometres northwest of Kimberley along the R31, underwent a remarkable metamorphosis this past weekend when it evolved into an adrenaline-charged utopia for mountain biking fanatics as the 19th Tour de Ghaap Ultra Mountain Bike Race, orchestrated by the awe-inspiring Berg Farmers Association, unleashed its thrilling might upon the landscape.

With September 9 and 10, etched into the annals of history, Ulco played host to an electrifying spectacle that had both pedal-pushing heroes and spellbound spectators at the edge of their seats. Two action-packed days of heart-pounding thrills and spills awaited those brave enough to venture into the heart of this mountain biking marvel.

The Tour de Ghaap is not just a race; it’s a family experience that pushes riders to their limits whilst showcasing the rugged beauty of the Northern Cape. This year, the event introduced new routes that had riders buzzing with excitement. On day one, a gruelling 75-kilometre circular route tested the mettle of participants, emphasising speed and endurance. On day two, a challenging 47-kilometre circuit awaited the racers, with technical sections and thrilling Jeep tracks demanding precision and skill.

Both routes provided riders with essential water and energy points along the way, ensuring they stayed fueled and hydrated throughout their daring journeys. Meanwhile, back at the base camp, participants were treated to sumptuous meals and refreshing drinks from Friday evening until Sunday lunch.

Camping under the starry Northern Cape sky added to the adventure, as cyclists and their families were responsible for their own tents and gear.

The Tour de Ghaap not only focuses on mountain bike racing but also the family experience, and what more could you ask for than spending the night with your family looking up and seeing the stars, not polluted by the city lights? Fortunately, the campsite in Ulco boasted modern ablution facilities, ensuring comfort amidst the wild.

The Tour de Ghaap kicked off each day at 8am, with fresh faces ready, setting the stage for an unforgettable weekend of mountain biking excellence. Even the youngest riders had their moment in the spotlight, with a mini race held at 4pm right in Ulco at the campsite, proving that the love for cycling knows no age.

Seen are the U-16 winners from left: Ryan van Niekerk (third), Franco van Heerden (first), Theunis van der Linde (second) and Pierre Murray (BHG Aluminium). Picture: Pieter Niemann

But the highlight of this thrilling weekend was undoubtedly the race’s crowning moments, as champions emerged from the dusty trails.

In the men’s division, Dusty Day clinched first place, followed closely by André van Rooyen in second place and Johan Botha in third.

For the women’s division, it was Tanya Roos who seized the top spot, with Johanet Heymann in second and Marisca Steyn securing third place. The Under-16 division also had its heroes, with Franco van Heerden claiming first place, followed by Theunis van der Linde in second and Ryan van Niekerk in third.

Seen are the female winners from left: Marisca Steyn (third), Tanya Roos (first), Johanet Heymann (second) and Annalie Jansen (Berg Farmers Association. Picture: Pieter Niemann

Now, in the aftermath of the race, with cycle tracks having criss-crossed the veld in and around Ulco during the 19th Tour de Ghaap Ultra Mountain Bike Race, the Ulco event proudly stands as a testament to the unyielding spirit of mountain biking in Central South Africa.

This race, with its challenging routes, stunning scenery, and fiercely competitive spirit, is undoubtedly on its way to claiming the title of the best mountain biking experience in the region.

According to event organiser Pieter Niemann, the 19th Tour de Ghaap was a huge success, and big plans are already under way for the 20th anniversary of the event being held next year.

So, get ready for more epic adventures as the Tour de Ghaap continues to push the boundaries of mountain biking in the years to come!

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