The Somerset West local, who will pair up with Arno du Toit as SPOT Africa-Insect Science, said the trails were on his doorstep and familiar to him.
“I know the area quite well, which is good for me. I’ve ridden those roads a hell of a lot, like at the SA marathon champs and Cape Epic,” said Hammond.
Du Toit was not as familiar with the route but Hammond did not see that as a problem.
“He’s exceptionally skilled, especially when it comes to speed, so he’s going to be difficult to hold onto on the single-track.”
Hammond felt that even though their strengths as riders were different they worked well as a team.
“Arno comes from a cross-country background so he’s used to the intensity of riding quickly, whereas I’m used to more open, long-distance races.
“Having done the Cape Epic earlier this year we found we work really well together, even though we can be quite different.”
Hammond added that he preferred to warm up at his own pace, whereas Du Toit could “sort of go out the blocks”.
“Stage one starts with a big climb and getting dropped early can be quite costly, so tomorrow we’ll go out to feel it, enjoy ourselves and maybe think a bit more [about strategy] from the second stage.”
Hammond, aged 30, said he looked forward to making his debut in the race with Du Toit, who had competed before.
“I’m most excited about the network of trails that have been put together. The ones on the Grabouw side are just exceptional. The scenery of the big mountains and heading to the coast are also exciting features.”
He said due to the stages being shorter and there being a lot of technical riding, he felt the racing would be “extremely intense”.
“With it being faster it will suit Arno quite a lot. There won’t be a lot of sitting back on long district roads and we’ll have our heads buried the whole day.
“Personally I haven’t raced for a good four or five weeks, but the form is good so I just need to get my head into race mode,” said Hammond, who defended his Trans Baviaans title alongside Ben Melt Swanepoel earlier this year.
Assessing the men’s field, Hammond felt the podium could come from any of the professional teams.
“Matthys [Beukes] and Philip [Buys] have shown they’re in seriously good form after winning the Cape Pioneer Trek.
“Taking the win from some of the established pro pairings is quite a big ask. Arno and I would be exceptionally chuffed with a top-five; a top-three would be even better,” said Hammond, who placed second overall with Alan Gordon at this year’s joBerg2c.
His season as a whole had been “quite up and down” as it started with injuries which resulted in him only getting into training late for the Epic.
“It went as well as it could have. The podium at joBerg2c was big for me and winning the Trans Baviaans was also good.
“Now I’m using the Wines2Whales to build up to the Pioneer in New Zealand, as I feel it’s a good stepping-stone for that.”
He felt he learnt a lot this year about managing injuries and sickness, which were “part of the racing game”.
“It’s not like you’re thrown a spanner that nobody else has been thrown. Everyone has their ups and downs; it’s just about trying to maintain your consistency.”