The B-Well Around the Pot welcomed 2 000 gravel riders to Swellendam for the 2022 edition and with winter rapidly approaching it is once again gravel season in South Africa. This means it is nearly time to take on the rolling roads of the Overberg in the 2023 edition. Scheduled for the 29th of July the 5th edition will boast a 200 Miler, 60 Miler and 25 Miler, along with the flagship 100 Miler distance.
“The aim for this year is certainly to exceed the 2022 numbers,” grinned race founder Rohan Germishuys. “There are amazing bed and breakfasts as well as restaurants in Swellendam, and the B-Well Around the Pot provides a distance or challenge for every level of rider. For those new to gravel there’s the exceptionally scenic 25 Miler through the Bontebok National Park. Riders looking for a challenge, but who aren’t ready to take on a full 100 Miler yet, the 60 Miler route includes the best of the iconic 160 kilometre course including a crossing of the Breede River on the Pont at Malgas.”
“For the real gravel aficionados, including those who want to test themselves against the best in the country, the 100 Miler is the race to do,” Germishuys advised. “The rolling roads of the Overberg are in excellent condition in winter and by late July the canola fields will be in full bloom, especially on the eastern side of the Breede River. Those fields, along with the section through the Renosterveld Reserve and the crossing of the river are undoubtedly the highlights of the route for me. Even as a local I’m continually amazed by how beautiful they are.”
In 2022 the B-Well Around the Pot saw a battle between Matt Beers, Marc Pritzen, HB Kruger, Casper Kruger, Tristan Nortje and Jaco Venter evolved over the course of the 100 Miler; with the pont neutral zone playing a pivotal role in determining the podium places. Yolande de Villiers and Catherine Colyn proved their gravel pedigree in the women’s race, but this year there is sure to be more women stepping up to contest the victory against the country’s pair of most experienced gravel racers.
The inaugural 200 Miler was won by Freddie Visser, in a time of 13 hours, 10 minutes and 28seconds, with Rebecca van Huyssteen claiming the first women’s crown. For 2023 the 200 Miler will remain a race for the brave. “Gravel is certainly growing and maturing in South Africa,” Germishuys reflected. “There’s a great vibe and excitement around the discipline. It’s great to see so many other races popping up too. Riders can now virtually focus on gravel from April to August and earn good prize money doing so. That said, we’re a way off the States still and the really long distances haven’t quite attracted the numbers yet. I think we’ll see organic growth in the 200 Miler distance and hopefully in time it will become the premier event at the B-Well Around the Pot, as it is at Unbound in Kansas.”
Swellendam’s winter weather adds another element to the adventure during the races. “Unlike most of the Western Cape we actually get a significant amount of our annual rainfall in summer. The winter days can be beautifully cool and crisp, without a breath of wind. But when the cold fronts blow through the roads can turn to sludge and the north westerly wind can make the return leg of the race really tough. That’s bike racing though… you can’t control the weather. The tougher the conditions the more memorable the edition will be,” Germishuys laughed.
Entries to the 2023 B-Well Around the Pot are open. Would-be riders are encouraged to secure their spot and book their accommodation soon, to avoid disappointment. Visit www.aroundthepot.co.za for more information and to enter one of the four distances.
Image: the crossing of the Breede River on the Malgas Pont, or ferry, is a unique feature which not only sets the race apart but also provides for an interesting tactical element to the otherwise straight shootout. Photo by Jacques Marais.