The inaugural Ramasgate Challenge held in the Matatiele area at the weekend proved to be the perfect dress rehearsal for the Roof of Africa.
The event set a high standard for what hosts the Natal WFO Enduro Association aims to establish as the best one-day hard enduro in Africa.
A challenging ride, not a race, Ramasgate put man and machine through their paces. For top riders, including some of the biggest names in South African enduro, it was ideal preparation for next month’s Mother of Hard Enduro.
For Hobby Class and adventure bikers, meanwhile, it was the ultimate riding experience on Matatiele’s terrific terrain without the pressure that comes with a race.
The 140km pro route was deemed tougher than a Roof Gold route, while the expert route was considered a solid Roof Silver ride.
Trevor and Gaye Kirk welcomed riders to Chertsey farm, the venue for the all-new enduro event, on Thursday ahead of the Time Trial on Friday.
The roughly 30km Time Trial track tested riders’ skill and ability and gave them a taste of what was to come the next day.
With the first climb in clear sight at the start line, riders’ heart-rate was pumped up from the get-go. The start and finish was set on a hill, enabling spectators to view a good 15 minutes of exciting action as riders negotiated obstacles in a fan-friendly bowl.
The top riders completed the Time Trial in just over an hour, while the final group of riders came in after close to three-and-half hours of riveting riding.
It was a tough Time Trial, designed to give riders clarity on which class to choose for the main event on Saturday.
Riders were treated to a braai at Chertsey farm on Friday night, where a bonfire flamed an awesome atmosphere reminiscent of the good old days of enduro racing, with riders speaking about the day out on their bikes and the sport they love.
The evening’s old school social event forms part of the Natal WFO Enduro Association’s vision of bringing back a social aspect of racing for the whole family to enjoy.
Most of the riders camped at the venue with its lush grass and trees, excellent ablution facilities and specially-made showers.
Riders woke up to a fresh morning of 4°C for the main ride, and set off from 8am in groups of eight based on their Time Trial placings.
The first stage took riders from Chertsey farm to the Ramasgate border post and took between 70 minutes to two hours to complete.
There, they were met by Sakkie Martens, who controlled the border post, where riders refuelled both their bodies and bikes before setting off on the respective scenic, well-organised routes through various valleys.
Danie van Zyl awaited riders at the next stop, where they refuelled and grabbed something to eat and drink again as a gruelling three quarters of the ride remained. This refuel stop also served as a cut-off point for those who missed the 2pm cut-off time.
From there, riders were faced with a number of climbs, most notably the Shaley Hill Climb, a steep and imposing 150-metre uphill where expert and pro riders had to scale switchbacks and rocks that thoroughly tested their fitness, stamina and skill.
Spectators were able to view both classes as they came up separate side-by-side gullies, which created a thrilling atmosphere for those who came out to spur on the riders.
After navigating a number of passes, riders returned to the border post, where Maartens checked them in and sent them on the home stretch.
The first finishers came in after six-and-a-half hours of strenuous riding (watch above), and were followed by a steady stream of spent but exhilarated riders. Each of the finishers received a Ramasgate Rock to commemorate riding in this amazing part of the country.
The highlight of the event was the true grit and tenacity of Ricky Cunniffe, who soldiered on to finish the pro route after 12 long and taxing hours in the saddle (watch below).
Cunniffe’s sheer desire and never-say-die attitude saw him earn the Rock Rabbits Ride of the Day award, which was presented to him by Iain McDonald.
To cap off an excellent event, riders were treated to a sheep on the spit at Matatiele Country Club, which buzzed as riders reflected and shared stories of their trials and tribulations.
“It’s been a wonderful event,” Greg Orsmond, chairman of the Natal WFO Enduro Association, told eHowzit.
“A huge thanks to Trevor Kirk for putting this event together, and to Faan van Deventer, Sakkie Maartens and Iain McDonald, who put in a lot of hard work to ensure the routes were of the highest standard.”