Distances80 - 170 km
Swartberg 100 is a 170km gravel Gran Fondo starting in Prince Albert on the north side of the Swartberg Mountain Nature Reserve with long paved sections and three unpaved sections.
The course starts and finishes in the town of Prince Albert, the first sector of 47km is paved and gently climbs for 20km to the foot of the relatively steep Kredouw Pass, from there it’s a fast descent to the first gravel sector just before the town of Klaarstroom. This gravel sector of 20km has a 200m ascent for the first 10km and then descends into the spectacular paved 23km section of the Meiringspoort road. A narrow defile that follows the river course right through the Swartberg mountain range.
Once the riders have passed through the town of De Rust there is a right hand turn onto the second gravel sector of 30km, again with first uphill section through a minor gravel pass, followed by an undulating fast downhill.
A third 20km paved section then brings the riders to the main difficulty of the day, The third and final gravel sector starting at kilometre 141 is the famous Swartberg pass, 27km long and often considered as one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the world, a summit of 1583m above sea level and littered with switchbacks on the ascent and descent of the pass.
There is also a shorter qualifying distance of 80km for all men over 60 and women over 50 with start just behind De Rest for the final 80km of the full course and the option to do the full 170km in team relay.
The 170km is divided in 7 sectors from which the gravel sectors two-four and six are going over a mountain pass.
With a total elevation of over 3000 meters, it’s a challenging ride with luckily also some time to recover. The final climb of the Swartberg pass in between km 120 and 150, initially on asphalt but quickly into real gravel with switchbacks goes towards its peak before getting back to the finish.
Start is at an elevation of 630m with a lowest point on the course halfway 440m above sea level. The highest point on top of Swartberg pass reaches an altitude of 1583m after more than 1000m of climbing over 30km. The last 6km are again on asphalt before the finish.
The event takes place around the Swartberg Mountains Nature Reserve with the Groot Karoo plains north of the range and the Klein Karoo valleys in the south.
The race course is north of the city of Oudtshoorn where many tourist routes towards the Swartberg pass start. Oudtshoorn is the most famous city of the semi-dessert area of the Klein Karoo with ostriches farms and the Cango Caves, the oldest caves in the world.
On the north side of the Swartberg mountain Nature Reserve, tourists can also visit the Karoo National Park, famous for its changing landscapes and the most diverse ecosystem in South Africa with a lot of exceptional plants and wildlife.
The Swartberg Pass, a National Monument between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn, is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and best known mountain passes in South Africa. It is the masterpiece of the brilliant engineer and road builder, Thomas Charles Bain (1830 – 1893), and the last of the seventeen passes he built in the Cape Province.
The 27km Swartberg Pass is considered one of the finest mountain passes in the world. The unpaved road winds its way to the summit some 1583 metres above sea level and offers breathtaking views at every turn.
The pass was built with the use of pickaxes, spades, sledgehammers, crowbars, wheelbarrows and gunpowder. Boulders were split by heating them with fire and then dousing them with cold water. Rocks were broken into smaller pieces with sledgehammers and then carefully dressed by the convicts. The dry-wall method of construction was used to build the impressive retaining walls that supported the road against the precipitous slopes. A century later, travellers still wonder at this feat.