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HotChillee launches world’s first seven-day gravel stage race in South Africa

Peter Stuart
30 May 2018

Cycling events company HotChillee launches mass-participation gravel race Rainmaker Rollercoaster in the Western Cape of South Africa

HotChillee, the London-based events company which pioneered the London-Paris tour, has completed a three-year journey to offer a 550km seven-day gravel stage event through the Western Cape in South Africa in October.

The 550km route takes in a startling 8000m of ascent, with much of the terrain mixing between gravel tracks and fully-fledged trails.

It makes for a challenging seven days of riding, as we discovered when Cyclist rode the route in March.

Beginning in Swellendam, with a 16km time trial through the Bontebok National Park, the route follows gravel roads and trails of the farmlands of Swellendam, into the semi-desert of the Little Karoo, along the green and leafy Garden Route of South Africa’s southern coast, through the Knysna forest and finishing in view of the ocean at Plettenberg Bay.

The event has a queen stage of 140km on day 5 with 2,500m of climbing, though a series of 20% gravel climbs on the shorter 109km stage 3 could arguably be the hardest of the event.

The details of each day are as follows:

Saturday 6 October: Stage 1 – Swellendam (Prologue) (16km/135m)  
Sunday 7 October: Stage 2 – Swellendam-Swellendam (57km/1150m)  
Monday 8 October: Stage 3 – Swellendam-Riversdale (107km/2000m)  
Tuesday 9 October: Stage 4 – Riversdale-Calitzdorp (109km/2100m)  
Wednesday 10 October: Stage 5 – Calitzdorp-Oudtshoorn (53km/350m)  
Thursday 11 October: Stage 6 – Oudtshoorn-Knysna (140km/2150m)  
Friday 12 October: Stage 7 – Knysna-Plettenberg Bay (74km/1650m)  

Unique access

HotChillee has collaborated with numerous local farmers and businesses to secure permission to ride over substantial stretches of private land, without which the route would have proved impossible.

The accommodation will be based in tented villages, with the opportunity to upgrade to more luxurious accommodation at the same site.

Local collaborations have also meant that participants can ride with locals from the Kwano cycling academy, and see the importance of grassroots cycling first hand.

‘The route between Swellendam and Plettenberg Bay will stand out as the finest and toughest gravel race in the world,’ says Sven Thiele, founder of HotChillee.

‘South Africa, and the Western Cape in particular, is ideally suited to gravel riding with its quiet, long and safe district roads that connect towns, villages and farms,' Thiele continues.

'There are challenging climbs and the terrain and scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world.

'It combines the best aspects of road and mountain bike riding, but at the same time imparts a unique cycling experience that we believe takes this wonderful sport to a new, exciting level.'

The event will have a race element but will be supported for all participants. There will be jersey and age category awards. Entries are open on 5th June, visit HotChillee's website for more details.

We rode the entire route in May as a precursor to the event and will be covering the experience in a full write-up in a future issue of Cyclist.

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