UCI class three status for the Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge will enhance South African mountain biking as a whole, said event co-founder Henco Rademeyer.
The one-day event, which takes place between Oudtshoorn and Great Brak River, was first granted UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) status in 2016.
Last week, the organisers announced that the 2018 race would form part of the UCI MTB Marathon Series, one of only five to take place outside Europe.
In addition, the Attakwas will mark the start of the 29-part series when it gets underway on January 20.
Rademeyer said he felt the timing and nature of the event contributed to its success as it allowed Europeans to take part and South Africans to judge their form before other UCI-rated events such as TransCape, Tankwa Trek and Cape Epic.
“Falling in Europe’s winter, makes it an ideal season-opener to test form leading up to bigger events,” he said, “and the exposure our riders get allows them to test themselves against their overseas counterparts.
“Our young, talented riders like Alan Hatherly can learn a lot. They are the kind of guys who, when they face top international riders, up their game.”
Riders can select which races on the UCI MTB Marathon Series to take part, with their top six results counting towards the overall standings.
Apart from being able to collect UCI points, the top 20 from each round and top 50 overall qualify for the UCI Marathon World Championships.
Raced over 120km with just under 3 000m of climbing, the Attakwas is not for the faint-hearted and that made it appealing to South Africans, said Rademeyer.
“If you look at things like Dusi or Comrades, I think we have a huge appetite for endurance events.
“A race that’s long and a challenge appeals to our athletes and I think, from that perspective, that is what’s made this event successful and helped to elevate its status.”
The event started with 150 riders in 2007 and has grown to attract roughly 1 500 riders from around the world.
Next year will mark the 12th edition and Rademeyer said participants and supporters could expect some exciting changes, including live video streaming and greater spectator spots.