The Tour of Ara, named for the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Ara, is a prestige race that is ridden mostly on South African-built steel racing bicycles in the proud tradition of the early Italian multi-day stage races.
The Tour follows a tough new dirt-road route over six days through the beautiful but harsh semi-desert Karoo and surrounds every year, and is as much a race as it is an exploration and celebration of this unique landscape and the people that live there.
For 2018 the Tour of Ara will be open to only 35 racers. In light of the gruelling distances of the previous two years resulting in injuries and a few broken bicycles frames, the route will include a bit easier this year, and the total distance has been brought down to about 600km. This year will also include two neural sections on the first and fifth stages, allowing riders to not only enjoy the landscape, but also each other's company from their bicycles. Because of the horrible drought much of the Karoo is facing at the moment, the Tour will visit towns this year that can support our stay a little more comfortable, and we will visit lovely Fraserburg, unique Williston, and remote Middelpos.
As always, the Tour will be a race against the clock, and stages will be very difficult and challenging, predominately over varying quality dirt roads, with the longest day being about 150km. Riders will encounter soft sand, corrugated roads, loose stones and sharp tyre-shredding rocks, and possibly even rain and mud.
The Tour of Ara is completely independent, and paid for by the entrants; there are no sponsors or patrons, and no prize money - we aim to keep it that way. This race is ridden entirely at ones own risk. You cannot hold anybody but yourself responsible for what might transpire during the Tour of Ara. So don't come crying if you get a flat or lose a finger. Prepare, train, and know your abilities and limitations before entering.
In August 2014, the first edition saw 35 cyclists race nearly 700km of gravel in six days, from the mountains of Franschhoek to Robertson, north to Touwsriver, then south of the N1 to Laingsburg. From there north-east to the little town of Merweville, then a climb into the west to Sutherland, after which the last stage to the south was raced to the finish in Matjiesfontein. The images below are from Tour of Arae 2014...
BELOW IS OUR MUCH-ANTICIPATED TOUR OF ARA DOCUMENTARY, produced in 2016 by the very talented team from Word. The film was directed by Rick Wall, and beautifully filmed by photographer Adriaan Louw. This 34 minute documentary follows the Tour and its 40 racers as they spend a week traversing the arid Karoo landscape along dirt roads on their old steel road bikes while experiencing life-changing situations, meeting locals, and facing some serious race challenges. Watch the trailer below, or click 'Rent' to view the film...