This year’s 1000 Miler may well be one for the ladies, according to race organiser Andy Masters.
The event, which is in its second year, covers roughly 1 000km between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
It was won jointly by Dave Bell and Tim van Coller last year but Masters expects to see a strong show by the women when the event starts on Saturday.
“These races are not won in the first 1 000km and the ladies seem to know that better than the guys,” he said. “They have a vasbyt for these types of events.”
Masters said the formidable pair of Cindy Theunissen and Sarah van Heerden would give the rest of the field a run for their money.
Lining up alongside then will be Jo Mackenzie, one of the country’s best trail runners.
Masters said her lack of cycling experience had proved to be no obstacle as she won the Durban Dash and Karoo Dash last year.
“This year the dark horse is Dawn Bell. She’s more than capable of winning this as she has continued to grow stronger over the year.”
Bell, who is married to last year’s winner, has also successfully completed the Freedom Challenge, said Masters.
He added defending champion Van Coller, the oldest in the field at 65 years, would undoubtedly be going for another win.
The leaders will all want to break the six-day barrier, but Masters said he expected the first riders in just after that.
“It will depend on the weather, mechanicals and getting enough sleep so navigational mistakes are not made,” he explained.
He said riders could experience temperatures of up to -12 degrees Celsius in the Sutherland area, and even lower with the wind chill factor.
“Last year the wind was really bad and the 90km from Victoria West to Loxton took some participants 14 hours to complete.
“Riders have to have the right equipment and clothing, but too much gear can weigh them down.”
The journey south is a self-supported one, which means riders have to provide everything for themselves. They are not allowed any outside assistance.
Despite the challenges this brought, Masters said he expected the majority of participants to complete the event.
“I expect 90 per cent of the entrants to finish as they are all hardened endurance riders. There really are some very good, experienced riders.”
Masters said he had seen incredible displays of human spirit in the event.
“It’s great to watch ordinary people do extraordinary things on a bike and the spirit between the riders is amazing.”