Seasoned racer S’annara Grove has confirmed she will race the inaugural Underberg Gran Fondo this weekend and will start as the woman to beat in the 140km gravel bike ride on Sunday 31 July.
Grove says the midwinter gravel outing fits in well with her base training plans, and gives the Durbanite a new competitive outing to focus on.
“I like racing and we definitely have a shortage of that in KZN,” says Grove. “I was happy to see that there was a gravel race that would finally make use of the many smooth gravel roads we have in the inland area.
“It’s a race that really fits in nicely with building mileage for training this time of year,” she added.
Grove is no stranger to gravel races but is in something of a quandary with the bike she will be racing on Sunday.
“I’ve done Race to the Sun twice, once on a gravel bike back in 2019 with 32mm tyres (which was way too narrow) and again on an MTB with 40mm gravel tyres on, which is actually the setup I’ll be going with for this race.
“I can get 34mm onto my road bike, but don’t think it will be enough with such a long race on the dirt roads,” she said.
She admits that she has not been training much on gravel from her Durban base but hopes that her base will be enough to make up for that.
“We don’t have great roads for gravel riding on the coast here for training, so I’ve been on the mountain bike and on the road bike during winter. I’ve done enough mileage on both so that the time in the saddle should at least be good.
Grove is enthusiastic about the emergence of gravel as a mainstream racing discipline as it fills gaps in the competitive calendar.
“I think it’s great. We definitely have the space for more racing in the calendar and it adds another dynamic where you get to see the road and MTB riders compete in the same discipline.
“I think we might start seeing more guys focus on gravel as their main discipline in future, if we keep seeing so many new races pop up, and doing road or MTB as their extra. It certainly works nicely with the gravel races in winter with the longer mileage they offer.
“I hope there’s even more next year. And hopefully the road races up their game. Gravel is definitely the new kid to the game they’ll need to show they can keep up with it,” she added.