April 14, 2011

Challenge Cape Town Course

Quite a bit about the Challenge Cape Town route has been on the “interwebz” since the race announced its launch a few weeks ago. Quite a few comments about the ability of local police to manage the crowds, about the route being too tough, etc. I am not here to comment on the logistics of the race as I have nothing to do with the race other than being excited by the race being in my home town. So let’s do the course overview to justify some claims and put others to bed.

Here is the official route:


Cool, but not that informative. So I cannot confirm where an email came from, but it arrived in my inbox leaving only a small trace and no return address with no words and only a few images addressed to The Urban Ninja. No doubt they are top secret and I will be taken to task on this, but here are some in depth images for you, my loyal followers. I do this for you…



Pretty simple stuff, apart from that section along Baden Powell where the wind blows side on and you are riding on the road that was built in the middle of a sand dude. Let’s hope it’s not windy as a chain filled with sea sand is NOT going to be much fun for the last 100km, which includes only a few hills.


That section is going to, as they say, separate the lads from the fads. Something to remember is that this race is not just a pedal and stay aero ride like Ironman South Africa. Your ability to ascend is going to be as important as your ability to descend. You will save minutes on this route by knowing where to brake, where to push, where to conserve. You`ll be free wheeling for around 20km on the route, but you can still loose minutes in that distance to riders who descend well. Also, quite a bit of this is rough tar. Into Misty Cliffs is pretty rough and will catch a few guys by surprise.

So in total, I anticipate 2100m of vertical on the ride. The Argus, South Africa’s benchmark, is around 1200m. Ironman South Africa only has 600m in the whole ride, so virtually 4 times as much climbing. Having said that, if they get this right, it`ll be the most spectacular bike ride you will do in your entire life. The vistas, the scenery, conquering the possible wind… it`ll all add up to an Epic on its own.

Let’s get onto the run, because this is going to be a special run, let me tell you.


Nice little hill in there after that “flat” bike ride. In any race of this distance, the first 6-8km of the run is going to make or break your day. I forsee MANY a broken day as you (yes YOU) will try hammer up the hill and more importantly, DOWN the 8% gradient on the other side. You`ll feel fresh and fast and you`ll make that key mistake. But then the last 25km are flat, so what do you have to worry about, right?

Check this out:


Those of us who live here run the Promenade quite a bit. You`ll know its made of concrete, which, unbeknown to you, is much harder than tar. That’s why your feet hurt after running on it. So we get 2 amazing loops on one of the most beautiful coastal run loops in the world to finish a crazily amazing race. But your feet are going to hurt extra on the concrete brick, I assure you. You`ll be begging to get your shoes off and you won’t know why until you refer back to this article post-race.

So we have it all on this route. Hills, rough road, twisting descents, wind, concrete bricks, more hills and the elements to fight us. But that is exactly why we enter these races. Factor in the cold water on the swim and I believe this race will make you feel more like the title of its competitor than you have ever felt before. It’s called Challenge for a great reason and we are in for an amazing day.

Tougher than Puffer? Sure. Comrades? I doubt it. Somewhere in the middle for me. It`ll be a pleasant hard. You`ll feel like you`re conquering the beast the entire way, that all the work you put in was worth it and that in the last 2km, you`ll want that feeling to last forever, that the race surely cannot be over just yet.

Bring it on!

4 Comments on “Challenge Cape Town Course

April 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

nice follow-up, I’m still going to remain skeptical that the ride route will stay like that. I just don’t see all the road closures happening, now that you highlght the fact that its on dewaal drive and the N2 as well I doubt it even further. Call it a work in progress (since you’re close to someone on the inside, for comedy’s sake i’d love to hear an explanation of the advertised rolling road closure for this event)

Good point on the run being concrete, that’ll hurt for sure. Throw in some south easter and it’s a bliksem. hard to compare to a 80km trail run, but hard for sure.

April 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Ironman: an idea by some enterprising Hawaii residents in 1977 to combine three existing events of long – but essentially arbitrary – distances into a single event. What I mean to point out is that there is no reason for the 3.8-180-42.2 formula other than a historical one; one semi-justifiably followed by Ironman (tm, copyright, etc) events worldwide.

So remind me why Challenge (tm, copyright, etc) events follow the same formula? Again, in order to conform to some essentially reasonless `secret formula’?

Is the birth of a new Long Triathlon (copyleft) event not a great time to re-normalise Long Triathlon distances to something better? Do we see the swim as a significant part of the event or just a distraction? Certainly, when wind and hills (forgetting the sand momentarily) are thrown into the cycle and run, they become Monsters compared to a short dip in the Atlantic. Or Monsters in their own right.

How about (shooting off the top of my head here) a 7km swim, 120km bike (following Argus route with the De Wall+Rhodes Drive detour), then a 32km Peninsula run? Bad idea? What would be better? Maybe we like marathons, so a 10:180:42? What about combining 3 of Cape Town’s existing endurance events into one: RobbenIslandSwim:Argus:TwoOceans?

This is my point: surely there is a better formula than an arbitrary, Kona-circa-1977-general-endurance-event one?

May 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

In response to the above comments, I have confirmation from my friends at Challenge that the road closures are all 100% agreed. As far as I know the run is on tar adjacent to the promenade!

May 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Great article, Cape Town should embrace this race as it’s going to an amazing day.
Imagine this added to the already impressive calendar to the Argus, Two Oceans and the Epic.

Steve – on the road closures, I am sure the organisers have this sorted.
The race start at 6am so by the time Cape Town wakes up at 9am the last of the cyclists would have passed De Waal Drive
The N2? dont you mean the M3?

Urban Ninja – I hear the race will be run on the road and not the Promenade so I dont think this will be an issue.

I cant wait for November, Cape Town is going to be the place to be


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