The Kalahari Challenge is Botswana’s premier mountain bike stage race, taking place just outside the capitol Gaborone. One would think the mostly flat and geographically featureless landscape would make for lacklustre riding, but an active mountain bike community and some very accommodating cattle delivered surprisingly fun biking for the 3rd leg of our #AfricanMTBSeries!
The race start in the shade of a rollercoaster at the Lion Park just South of Gaborone was a premonition of sorts and symbolic of what we were about to face over the next 3 days of racing.
Case in point – the warm hospitality from our luxurious pre race accommodation at the Avani hotel was in stark contrast to the frosty start of each day almost as much as the rugged and unforgiving terrain was dissimilar to the comfy, blanket stacked beds in our roomy campsite tents.
According to the race book 235km lie in wait for us with ‘a mere’ 2000m of elevation gain over the 3 days of racing. What wasn’t published (but was forewarned) was that there would be plenty of Botswana hills, i.e. deep sandy patches, and a bunch of thorns acting as traffic police making sure we kept our speed in check.
A big challenge was navigating while racing but we soon found the balance between following the map on our Garmin EDGE 1000, the neon green stickers which marked the course and the slight difference between the two. Every now and then one could use initiative to avoid deep sand or thorns but you had to keep your wits about you to stay on track which added an interesting dimension to the event.
Day’s 1 and 3 had loads of manmade and natural singletrack which saw plenty of kilometres fly by, but day 2 was a challenge which had everyone thankful to finish the stage despite some striking landscapes along the way. We were determined to continue our recent run of good form and after 3 days of tough racing we took home the title in the Mixed Category along with a 6th place overall.
For now our #AfricanMTBSeries is on hold until the Rift Valley Odyssey in September, but that doesn’t mean we stop racing our bikes. Winter means there are slightly less events and we’ll use the time to pause, reboot and ensure we tackle the second half of the season with renewed vigour.