However, Hammond admitted the 227km race would pose a totally different challenge compared to last year.
He won the event alongside Matt Beers last year in 8:46:16. That race showed Beers’s emergence as a mountain-biker of note. He now rides for NAD Pro and is currently taking part in the Lowveld Tour road race.
Hammond said this year’s race would be “quite different”.
“In previous years the competition has been more the older type of ‘diesel engines’,” Hammond told In the Bunch today.
“This year there are a few young and fast riders, including HB [Kruger], Gert [Heyns] and Arno [du Toit]. They are very powerful riders.
“It should be quite a different challenge this year. Ben and I are just going to have to ride our own race and see what comes of that.
“If we can’t stick to the pace of Gert and Arno then there’s nothing else we can really do, but we are going to give it our best shot and enjoy it.”
Better known as an endurance mountain-biker, Hammond said the longer distances had always been his strength in the past despite his having moved gradually into marathon races in recent years.
“I started with ultra-endurance racing about five years ago,” he said. “It was always my strength in the past but I have slowly started riding more in marathons as well.
“It’s just the way racing has gone in South Africa, with the ultra-marathon series gone. Setting the Cape Epic as your goal you simply have to compete in marathons.
“I do still enjoy the long distances though. But I don’t really know how it’s going to be racing with Ben.”
Hammond has not raced with Swanepoel before, but they are friends off the bike.
He described Swanepoel as a rider who will not “try to destroy me” in race situations in order to “flex” his strengths. Instead he would play more of a supporting role.
“I have not raced with him but I have raced around him,” he said. “He is not somebody who will try to destroy me because he wants to show how strong he is.
“That will be an important aspect in the race tomorrow. There are many riders who are keen to show that they’re the stronger partner and Ben isn’t like that.
“He really knows how to look after his partner,” Swanepoel added.
Hammond recalled that in previous races he normally managed to get a gap going over Bergplaas and to hold onto that gap and extend it until the finish.
However, he doubted it would play out precisely that way this year. “Arno and Gert as well as Mike [Posthumus] and Derrin [Smith] will probably both take that on this year.
“They should be able to stay with us. After that the route flattens out for a while before the Neverender climb [almost 200km in], which will probably be the decider.
“It’s not a big climb, but it can make or break you. If you start getting cramps there you will probably be in trouble.
“It will be really important not to burn matches early; we will try to save them for the last 40km.”