Dusty Day and Yolande de Villiers emerged victorious in a war of attrition against the wind, as much as against the brutal R355 gravel road, at the 2023 News24 Karoo Burn; on Saturday, 25 February. The 242 kilometre long race, from Calvinia to Kaleo Guest Farm, near Ceres, took on the longest, straight, uninterrupted gravel road in the country. If that was not challenge enough a southerly wind blew all day, providing a stiff headwind for the entire course.
“Long… headwind… hot…. tough….” Day puffed on the finish line. “Ja, dit was hard!”
“We [Day, CP van Wyk, Jaco Davel and Bennie Viljoen] all worked together against the wind,” Day expanded. “There was no point in trying to do anything alone. We all know the race would be made after the Tankwa Padstal on Katbakkies Pass.”
At the famous Padstal Day made a rapid stop, while Van Wyk, Davel and Viljoen took more time to refuel. “I made a quick stop and then just went because these guys climb a bit quicker than me. I knew I had to get a gap for the Pass and they never caught again,” Day said, sounding a touch surprised. “But ja, well done to Jaco [Davel] and the other guys, it was really tough out there!”
Day’s winning time was 9 hours, 26 minutes and 20 seconds. This was an hour and 21 minutes slower than Davel’s 2022 course record, which illustrates how difficult the wind made life on the bike during the 2023 race. Davel was second, 2 minutes and 9 seconds behind Day. Van Wyk completed the solo men’s podium saying: “I think we averaged 20 kilometres per hour, working together and taking turns on the front! That’s how relentless the wind was.”
De Villiers rode to a dominant victory in the solo women’s category. The woman for Oudtshoorn found herself in a strong group with Luca Stermin, Jacques Steyn, Brian Brummer, Regis Maniora and Catherine Colyn. They were the second group on the road for the opening 100 kilometres of the route, until the group began to splinter. Maniora was the first to drop off. Then Colyn lost contact with the group when she stopped to fill bottles at Water Point 2, 111 kilometres in.
From there Colyn was chasing alone and it eventually told as she began to cough from the dust and exertion. The gravel and eSports racer from Paarl eventually withdrew at the 168 kilometre mark. There was no stopping De Villiers however. Despite riding the final 40 kilometres solo, after Brummer forged on she distanced Steyn, De Villers still continued to extend her advantage over Bianca Silberbauer, who had inherited second after the Tankwa Padstal.
“It’s always tough!” the women’s champion exclaimed on the finish line. “I forgot how tough this race is. It’s beautiful. But I won’t lie, I’m really happy to be finished now…”
De Villiers’ winning time was 10 hours, 36 minutes and 19 seconds. Not only did she win the women’s race but De Villiers was also sixth overall. Silberbauer crossed the line second in the women’s race and nineth overall, 43 minutes and 7 seconds down on the winner. Magan Hanekom completed the solo women’s podium standings.
“It was an absolutely brutal day with virtually no free kilometres,” News24 Cycling Editor, Lance Branquinho said. “Wind is any rider’s worst adversary and it was relentless to the end. Even the strongest riders finished way slower than they anticipated.”
Despite the challenging conditions the News24 Karoo Burn was undoubtedly a success. Ultra-endurance racing is not meant to be easy after all and the weather is one of the unpredictable factors which can turn against competitors unexpectedly. Every rider who showed the mental and physical fortitude to finish the 2023 edition can rest assured that they more than earned their finishers’ medals and bragging rights.
2023 News24 Karoo Burn Results
1. Dusty Day (9:26:20)
2. Jaco Davel (9:28:29 | +2:09)
3. CP van Wyk (9:59:29 | +33:09)
1. Yolande de Villers (10:36:19)
2. Bianca Silberbauer (11:16:26 | +43:07)
3. Magan Hanekom (13:20:16 | +2:43:57)
1. DVCC Kirkmack Racing: Shawn Kirschner & Andrew Stam (12:15:45)
2. DVCC Kirkmack Racing: Jacques de Bruyn & Willie van Heerden (12:33:40 | +17:55
3. Kirkmack Gravel: Leon Erasmus & Wilmar Gouws (12:54:38 | +39:53)
1. All Gold: Cristelle Snyman & Nico van der Merwe (13:24:57)
1. Nortje & de Villiers Consulting Engineers: Maureen Jordaan & Charlene Vernooy (14:08:43)
2. I Be Pro Fun: Nicole Morse & Marelise Badenhorst (16:50:52 | +2:42:09)
image: The R355 is unerringly straight as it cuts across the Tankwa Karoo from Calvinia towards Ceres. Photo by Oakpics.com.