Vanessa Bell will follow her own winning recipe, which is to ride at a steady pace, when she defends her Race to the Sun title on Saturday.
“I did that last year and it worked,” said Bell, ahead of the 167km race that starts at Hartbeespoort Dam and ends at Sun City.
“Last year was the first time I did that distance on a bike. I had never even covered it in training so I wasn’t sure if I could finish.
“At least I know that, despite any conditions on the day, I will finish and hopefully defend my title.”
Bell added that she had a “great ride” last year, so it was difficult to pinpoint any possible challenges she might face.
“I’m really excited for this weekend. Riding to Sun City is really a unique concept and being able to do it on a gravel bike makes it even more exciting.”
Bell said she took a break from competing last year so did not expect to race when she lined up at the start line.
“This year I haven’t really done anything differently, except I did a few longer rides over the past few weekends to prepare myself for time in the saddle.
“I’ve also done some rides in the rain and heat to make sure the weather conditions on the day won’t play on me mentally.”
Bell will ride on the Specialized Diverge bike this year and expects it to be “a lot of fun”.
“I think a gravel bike is definitely the right bike for this type of race.”
She said her tips for anyone doing the race for the first time would be to not go out too hard and to eat and drink throughout, even if you’re not thirsty.
“The organisers have put a lot of effort into this race. Often the first edition has hiccups, but they pulled this off very well last year.”