A strong field will line up for round five of the National MTB Marathon Series at Holla Trails in Ballito on Saturday.
Nico Bell, the current leader, will be on the start line alongside his Team NAD team-mate Gawie Combrinck, who is lying second.
The Mpumalanga pair, though, will face formidable opposition.
Defending series champion Max Knox (Lowveld Tractors/Dirk Louwrens Cycles), winner of the last two rounds at Clarens and Van Gaalen, is also on the start list.
Knox will be out to secure a rare series hat-trick in order to rack up more points in his quest to defend the overall crown.
Add to that the USN Purefit pair of Waylon Woolcock, currently third, and Darren Lill, who is still returning to form following a bout of illness, the SCOTT LCB Factory Racing pair of Philip Buys and Gert Heyns, as well as Team Telkom’s HB Kruger, PSG’s Lourens Luus and Red-E Cannondale’s Matt Beers, and you have a high quality field.
Bell finished second overall at last week’s Bestmed Jock Cycle Tour three-day road stage race and convincingly won the Trailseeker Hazeldean marathon the previous weekend.
“I’ve done all the National Series races so far this year, finishing in the top five in each one,” said Bell.
“That’s helped me score enough points to lead the series and I’m aiming to maintain that consistency. My form feels good and I’m hoping for a good result in Ballito on Saturday.”
Last year’s women’s winner, Swiss marathon champion Ariane Kleinhans (Team Spur), won’t be in the country this weekend, while South African Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), last year’s runner-up, is recovering from an injury.
Also absent this weekend is series leader Amy Beth McDougall as she is competing abroad.
That opens up the women’s race, with Candice Neethling (Team Dormakaba), Samantha Sanders (Valencia) and Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) the favourites to battle for the title.
The four different distance events will be a 102km ultra-marathon, a 78km marathon, a 42km half-marathon and an 18km fun race.
View more information, results and photos here.