International mountain bike star Frans Claes will face a different challenge next month when he tests his versatility in South Africa’s premier road race, the Bestmed Tour of Good Hope.
The five-stage race, presented by Scicon and the City of Drakenstein, takes place in and around the city of Paarl in the Western Cape from March 5 to 9.
Although he now specialises in mountain biking, the 34-year-old Belgian has had experience of road racing, competing as an amateur before spending a year in the professional ranks in 2013.
He is looking forward to the challenge presented by the 490km Tour of Good Hope, saying it will be an opportunity to improve his speedwork.
“I know there will be good competition and some nice climbs, which will suit me,” said Claes, who is listed third in the international marathon mountain bike standings.
He will be supported by the Alfa Bodyworks team during the tour.
Claes has been in South Africa since January, capitalising on the good weather to prepare for the forthcoming European season.
“In Belgium it’s winter with a lot of rain and cold temperatures. Here it’s hot, sometimes too hot, but I prefer the heat, so it is not so much of a problem.
“Also, the terrain here is excellent to prepare for the mountain bike season.”
Claes, who won a UCI Mountain Bike Marathon Series race in Spain last year, started his season at the Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge in Oudtshoorn last month.
“I did Attakwas where I came fourth, after which I competed in the two-day Simonsberg Contour race, where I also ended fourth.”
The Bestmed Tour of Good Hope has 5 218m of vertical ascent and Claes will be eyeing the third (137km; 2 687m ascent) and fourth (134km; 2 900m) stages.