Underberg – The organisers of the Euro Steel Drak Descent mountain bike races have committed to a wholly GPS navigated event, entrenching the event’s commitment to minimizing its impact on the environment.

The two day event involved a network of trails between Restmount high on the Drak Gardens road down to Early Mist Farm on the second Coleford Road, linking sensitive Maloti-Drakensberg Park grasslands and local farm lands, and has for a number of years pursuing a “green event” strategy that the organisers are extending for the upcoming event on January 28 and 29 2023.

“We have always been a ‘green event’ in terms of looking at every aspect of our event organization and its direct and indirect impact on the environment,” said Sani Spoors’ Pierre Horn.

“Our riders have become familiar with our philosophy of using GPS trail marking, but we have in recent years supplemented this with some physical marking on the course at critical points where a participant without a GPS might get lost.

“This year we are going 100% GPS navigated and there will be no physical route marking,” he stressed.

“We used to send our team in just before the event to set up the special bio-degradable day-glo orange tape at the vital points on the trails, and then sent another team in immediately after each days stage to remove it all,” he explained.

“Even leaving this to the last minute we found that cattle would find it, or birds would pull it, or even Duiker or Eland or a Reedbuck would nibble it, and we just can’t reconcile that with our commitment to protecting our environment,” said Horn.

“Also, with our district having no formal recycling plant for our waste, the tape that we collect would sit in the dump at Himeville and then have to be transported to Pietermaritzburg where it would be disposed of.

“Think of the carbon footprint of sending a truck up from Pietermaritzburg and returning with waste to be disposed,” he added. “That just doesn’t sit well with our commitment to being a ‘green event’.”

Horn said that the second over-arching priority was an aesthetic one.

“We know that athletes come to this event because of the natural beauty of this area and we feel that the day-glo tape detracts from that significantly,” he explained.

The third driver behind their move to a wholly GPS navigated event was to embrace the available technology and align with the event commissaires.

“The GPS Navigation is so accurate and sophisticated that there is no chance of a participant getting lost. Even if they go off course the GPS will tell them immediately that they are off the track,” he said.

“With the UCI and Cycling South Africa requirements, every mountain biker that gets a top ten finish is required to submit their GPS route to the commissaire, who will verify that they have in fact completed the entire route,” said Horn.

“The entrants also tell us that they enjoy being able to download the route data prior to the event so that they can study it, check out the profiles and get a better understanding of what to expect,” he added.

The race will make its GPS partners Easy Bike available to all entrants to assist with setting up GPS events and ensuring the route data is correctly loaded onto each athletes GPS at registration.