Saturday’s 10th Fairview Attakwas Extreme Mountain Bike Challenge has attracted a strong international field.
Switzerland’s five-time winner Ariane Kleinhans (Team Spur) heads up the women’s field in her quest for a sixth consecutive victory while four-time Cape Epic winner Karl Platt, who has yet to win the event, will be the rider to watch on the men’s side.
Matthys Beukes (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing) is the only previous men’s winner in the race, which covers 121km with 2 900m of vertical ascent from Outdshoorn to Great Brak River.
Platt will be chased by compatriots and Team Bulls stablemates Tim Bohme and Simon Stiebjahn, winners of the Cape Pioneer Trek in the same region two years ago.
Gert Heyns (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing), third last year, should also be in the podium hunt while double South African marathon champion James Reid (Team Spur) will make his Attakwas debut.
“My form is quite good after a solid December of training, but the first race is always an unknown – not just for me, but for everyone,” said Beukes.
“I have spent a lot of time in the gym in December and January working on developing my power. I’m keen to see how that will work out for me.
“There are some experienced, strong riders in the field and I know it’s going to be a tough race. My teammate Gert (Heyns) finished third last year and I think he will be a rider to watch for sure. But he’s certainly not the only one.”
In the women’s race, Kleinhans will have to hold off the powerful Ascendis Health pairing of Robyn de Groot, the national marathon champion, and Jennie Stenerhag, the Swedish champ. Stenerhag led the race last year until multiple punctures saw her title challenge fade and she eventually finished third behind De Groot.
Other strong women in the field are former British road race champion Sharon Laws, Freedom Challenge record holder Jeannie Dreyer (RMB Hi-Tec), multiple Cape Epic podium finisher Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) and former champion Ischen Stopforth.
Warm, sunny weather is predicted, along with a breeze off the ocean that will become a headwind for much of the final 40km.
This means the men’s record of 4:57:46 set by Urs Huber in 2014 is likely to remain in place. The women’s record of 5:30:58 was set by Kleinhans last year.