In a boost for opening leg, race director Jan Venter said the Ascendis Health team would be competing in the elite women’s category.
“They will definitely raise the quality in the field,” he said of the highly rated pair.
De Groot, who is from George, has competed in the series previously, along with another leading mountain-biker in Matthys Beukes.
Venter added that the series would follow the same format as in previous years after proving extremely popular, attracting entries from the nippers category to the grandmasters.
“This is the format we need for cross-country events and there will again be log points across the four races, with overall winners,” he said.
“There has been massive interest and we have grown tremendously – from 86 in 2016 to around 200 last year.”
George campus sports manager Hugo Loubser said the series, now entering its third year, had developed into a highly successful product.
“Given the landscape of the Nelson Mandela University campus, it wasn’t difficult marrying the whole concept of mountain-biking and the George campus, so we have definitely ticked that box,” said Loubser.
Venter said the Whip Snake route for Sunday would “see a little bit of the old, a little bit of the new”.
“It will be a good test for all the riders. It is not as difficult as the final route of last year, but there will be some challenges to get them up to speed for the remaining races.”
Supported by Giant Cycle, RideLife and Tippeton, the series will continue on May 6 (Boomslang), July 15 (Bergadder) and August 5 (Chameleon).