Jonkershoek Challenge kicks off series.

On Saturday some of the country’s top trail runners will line up for the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge, the opening leg of the Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series.

The man to beat in the main 39km event is likely to be defending champion Bernard Rukadza who held off Edson Kumwamba in 2018 to record the fastest time for the 39km distance.

Rukadza has only not won the event once since the 38km distance was introduced in 2015 and then extended to 39km. Rakudza, who was also a top-20 finisher on the road at the recent Two Oceans marathon, could face a tough challenge this time from first-time Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge runner Siviwe Nkombi.

The 39km offers a brutal challenge for the runners with a daunting 1 865m of vertical ascent waiting for the athletes. The first 15km is virtually all uphill with the trail steadily rising until it ramps up for the brutal Swartboskloof climb. The start of Swartboskoof, at just under 12km, signals the start of a climb that gains about 500m in just over two kilometres.

At the top there is little chance to rest with a short undulating section before Kurktrekker Nek signals the start of the two-kilometre ascent up to the highest point, which is 21km into the race. From there is it is mostly downhill back to the finish.

There are just over 200 pre-entries in the 39km. The shorter 24km event has attracted more than 400 runners while 300 will tackle the shorter 12km.

The 24km runners will complete most of their 1 105m of climbing in the first half with the highest point reached at less than 11km into the run. The big obstacle for the 24km entrants is the Panama Climb which comes just under 8km into the race and involves 580m of elevation gain in three kilometres. The good news for athletes once they reach the summit of Panama Climb is that the route takes them mostly downhill from there back to the finish.

The 12km route has 269m of ascent with the toughest climbing in the opening four kilometres.

Supporters of runners in the 39km can follow live updates of runners positions as they pass checkpoints at 19km, 22km and 27km, while the 24km will have a checkpoint at 13,4km. Spectators wanting to see live updates of runners positions can follow the link from the FinishTime results page  or directly to the Jonkershoek Challenge results.