2021 Ethio Mountain Challenge

New dates for 2021:

Saturday 6 February – Saturday 13 February 2021

Ethio Cycling Holidays 4-day tour
About the event:

The second edition of the Mountain Challenge event hopes to build on the success of the inaugural edition in 2019 contested by 15 riders.

The ‘challenge’ aspect of the event comprises four timed sections on four tough climbs (marked in red on map) which take place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The first weekend is spent in Mekelle for acclimatisation and a chance to take in the local cycling culture. Local crit races often take place in Mekelle at the weekend. There is an optional rest day on Thursday when you get chance to visit one of the famous rock-hewn churches in the region. A special feature of the event is the chance to ride with young Ethiopian cyclists who are part of our Junior Development Team. We are also hoping that participants will get to meet Tsgabu Grmay at the event. A documentary film of the event’s first edition can be viewed here. A limited number of early-bird packages at £1,095pp are now available for the event.

Itinerary: 8 days in Ethiopia | 6 days cycling | Total distance 615km

On arrival in Mekelle in northern Ethiopia, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in town, about a twenty-minute drive from the airport. After check-in and lunch, you will have time to assemble your bike and complete registration for the event. Later in the afternoon there will be time for a short 90-minute ride before getting a full event briefing and having evening dinner in the hotel.

Overnight stay at Hatse Yohannes Hotel

Today being Sunday is a great day to get to know the surroundings of Mekelle on a social ride that will also allow you to acclimatise to the altitude of the northern highlands (Mekelle is sitauted at 2084m). One of the favourite Sunday morning rides is an out-and-back ride to Hagere Selam heading out west from Mekelle. If possible we will try to meet up with other local riders. You will be back in the hotel by mid-afternoon to give you time to get ready for the start of the event on the following Monday.

Overnight stay at Hatse Yohannes Hotel

The event’s opening ride starts with a testing (up to 13%) climb of 5km taking you out of Mekelle and up onto the plateau extending north towards Eritrea. There follows a stunning stretch of tarmac with long sweeping descents into Agula and Wukro where you stop for coffee. The event’s first time trial takes place over a 6km ascent leading up to the 7th century mosque in Negash. From there you ride an undulating route through Frewenyi and Idaga Hamus before entering the final 10km descent into Adigrat. Tonight you will eat out at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.

Ride distance: 116km

Overnight stay at Canaan International Hotel

As on the event’s first day, a long climb comes at the start of today’s ride, this time leading out of Adigrat and heading west on the road heading west to Adwa. Though the climb is longer (just short of 12km), the gradients start gentler (5-6%) but then kick up more steeply (10-12%) after halfway. A breath-taking 20km descent into Bizet follows, and from here you continue to the ride’s halfway point at Enticho. After a stop here the jagged Adwa Mountains appear ahead, and following a few more climbs you descend into Adwa and regroup ahead of the event’s second timed section which takes in two hills on the road between Adwa and Axum. The ride finishes with a flat 10km stretch past Axum airport and into the town centre. After entering Axum, you will have chance to see the magnificent Stelae Park alongside the ancient church of Tsion Mariam.

Ride distance: 127km

Overnight stay at Yared Zema International Hotel

Today starts with you retracing your steps to Adwa, the site of the famous 1896 victory by Ethiopian troops over the Italians. From here you climb out of the town on the road heading south back to Mekelle and ride out to “Switchback Summit”. This is followed by a beautiful descent to Maykenitil and onwards into the valley. The event’s third timed section starts from the bridge in the valley bottom and climbs for 15km (10-15% gradient) to the summit overlooking the town of Workamba. Beware for a number of false summits! From here you ride the final 22km into Abiy Addi. After taking a shower and food, you transfer by vehicle to your hotel in Werkamba.

Ride distance: 120km

Overnight stay at Werkamba Hotel

Today, after three tough days of cycling in the event, you have the option of either taking a rest day and doing some sightseeing or doing a recovery ride at your own pace. For sightseeing we will be offering a visit to the famous Abune Yemata Church, the most famous of all the rock-hewn churches in the Gheralta region. If you prefer to ride, the road from Werkamba to Hawzen is a wonderfully quiet stretch of tarmac where you are likely to see more camels, donkeys and children then cars. Both options will be fully supported by us with guides and transport.

Overnight at Werkamba Hotel

The event’s final ride of 116km is from Werkamba to Mekelle via Abbi Adiy and Hagere Selam. It takes in one of the toughest and longest (16km) climbs in the region on the road leading up to Hagere Selam (2759m) which forms the event’s 4th and final timed section.

Overnight at Hatse Yohannes Hotel

Today you will fly back from Mekelle to Addis and connect onto your international flight back home. Depending on your flight timings you might also be able to do some sightseeing in Addis. We will be happy to give you advice about this and make arrangements for you.

What’s included in the event package:

  • event entry fee (£100)
  • 7 nights’ hotel accommodation
  • all breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • all ground transport
  • all luggage and bike transfers for the rides
  • full support* on your ride from drivers and cycling guides
  • maps and profiles of the rides supplied as pocket-sized ride cards
  • airport transfers

*All rides are fully supported with lead vehicle and tail-end vehicle; motorbike rider; cycling guides; mechanics to assist with assembly of bikes and any mechanical problems during the rides; nutrition for rides including water, energy bars, gels, bananas, tea/coffee

Not included:

  • international and domestic flights
  • visa for Ethiopia ($50)
  • travel insurance
“Road cycling in Ethiopia is incredible – well worth a trip! Thank you Tsgabu and thank you Ethio Cycling for the wonderful tour, guiding us to the best roads and the best views, and best coffee!” Greg S, 2019 Ethio Mountain Challenge participant