From Ceres to Sutherland

We chatted to MTB cyclists Jacques du Plessis and Riaan Erasmus who took on the Trans Karoo 240km endurance MTB race from Ceres to Sutherland in their CBC sponsored kit.

“…you are actually just competing with yourself and your own capabilities – to dig deep to carry on and not give up!”

  • What made you decide to do the Trans Karoo?
I’ve done a few MTB races before as well as the Argus Cycle Tour a few times but none of these were really extreme. I wanted to test and push myself to the limits for a change and decided that this year I want to do a few endurance events and see what my body and mind is capable of. The first one for the year was the Trans Karoo 240km endurance MTB race from Ceres to Sutherland in which one have to finish within 17 hours, I’ve always wanted to go to Sutherland so I thought why not go there by cycling through the beautiful Tankwa Karoo…and that’s when I entered in December 2013! I looked for a partner to help me through this thing and managed to convince my long life friend Riaan to do it with me, very happy and thankful that he did because without him I probably would not have made it!
  • Tell us a little more about the race…
The race itself is a gruelling 240km long that starts in Ceres and ends in Sutherland. The route goes through the Tankwa Karoo and in total one does about 3300m of vertical climbing. There is a cut off time of 17 hours in which you have to complete so you have to average above 15km/h to make it. The race started in cold conditions at 7am in Ceres and the cut off was at 12pm in Sutherland in very cold conditions! The night before we stayed in Paarl so we got up at 4am to make our way to Ceres.
  • How did the race go?
This was the first real endurance race for both of us and I think it went really well. We managed to finish in just under 16 hours with cold, battered and tired bodies. We didn’t have any major injuries or mechanical problems apart from my saddle unnoticeably getting lower during the race which caused some back of the knee pain for me. The real tough part of the race started around the 180km mark where we came to the foot of the mammoth Ouberg Pass, which is 8km long and took us just under 2 hours to get to the top. The elevation difference is around 800m which is just a bit lower than Table Mountain. It is very steep and after 180km in the legs this is about pushing your bike to the top! Once at the top we were greeted at the local check point with some hot coffee, warm potatoes, braai chops and a big fire to warm us up. The last 50km to Sutherland was all in the dark, the kilometers seemed to tick by very slowly in the dark and mentally it got really tough but after about 2.5 hours we saw Sutherland’s lights in the distance and it felt like Christmas in April! Overall there were 220 entries, 180 started the race and 127 entries managed to finish within the allowed 17 hours.
  • What was the highlight of the race for you and Riaan?
The quiet beauty of the Tankwa Karoo, the braai chops at the top of Ouberg Pass, the sight of the Sutherland lights after 235km, a well deserved CBC beer at the end and receiving our medals which meant that we ‘tamed the Karoo’!
  • Where off to next?
The next big race is the Trans Baviaans which is a 24h 230km MTB race from Willowmore to Jeffreys Bay through the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve. Apart from that we are also looking to start doing a few stage races.
  • Anything else that you want to share about the race?
It’s tough, it’s long, it’s cold, but so worth it once you have finished it. It will test you mentally & physically! We’ve seen Sutherland at night now but not in day time, so I guess we will have to go back next year to do the ‘down ride’ which starts in Sutherland and ends in Ceres!
” I want to thank CBC for our awesome kit & the cold beers. Thanks again to my partner Riaan and our support crew Wanro, Dirk & Francois. Also to my wife, thanks for granting me all that hours of practice out on the saddle!” – Jacques du Plessis
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