The eighth edition of the event will finish four days later at Crossways Farm Village, between Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth.
“Last year Robert [Hobson] and I finished third. He rode superbly and I was pretty happy with how things went. I really wasn’t expecting to finish top-three,” said Marais, 31.
“This year I’m going to be riding with Andrew Hill . We partnered together I think three years ago when we finished second.
“It would be nice to finally actually win this event.”
The duo will be racing as team TIB/WilleHonne. WilleHonne, a cycling club in Johannesburg, are Marais’s new sponsors for the year.
“Andrew and I have done the race together and we work well as a team. We’re pretty well maxed in terms of our strengths, which makes for a good partnership going into the race.”
On the opening day, riders will tackle a 95km stage from Kurland to Tsitsikamma. Stage two covers 78km from Tsitsikamma to Suiderland, while the next day consists of a 75km route from Suiderland to Zuurbron. The final day will take competitors on a 67km journey from Zuurbron to Crossways.
“It’s the first time I’m actually racing it from Plett to PE. I’ve only traditionally done the PE to Plett version and now we do it in reverse, so it’s going to be quite interesting.
“I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoy the Tsitsikamma area we ride through. It’s stunning and makes for some amazing views from the top of the mountains.”
Marais said his form at the moment was good and he had taken a very easy, long build-up to the season.
“I missed out on the first few races of the year as I wasn’t quite firing at that stage, firstly, and secondly I didn’t want to really push the start of the season too hard because then the middle of the year comes and you start struggling to find your form.
“I’ve taken quite a long approach to the season in that I’d like to peak in the middle of it instead of the start.”
PE Plett will be his first big race of the season with some “pretty big goals” later on in the year.
“Marathon champs is in my backyard this year and, as always, the XCO champs will probably be high up there. I’m looking for a good 2020.”