The 2012 MTN South African Marathon National Series was announced on Wednesday. It will include eight events, kicking off in late January and running through mid-October.
Barberton and Tulbagh will host the first two rounds on January 28 and February 18 respectively. The third round in Sabie, on February 25-26, will double as the first 2012 event of the UCI Marathon World Series.
Wessel van der Walt, race director of the MTN series, announced that from next year the Sabie Event will be a UCI-sanctioned event where international ranking points will be on offer.
"The decision makers of the UCI have decided to put on a World Marathon series. It will be organized on the same principles as the UCI World Cup cross Country and downhill series.
According to Van der Walt there is an excellent chance that riders such as German Karl Platt (Team Bulls), Swiss star and marathon world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized) and Burry Stander (Specialized) will be racing in Sabie.
"The MTN Sabie race will be perfect preparation for the Absa Cape Epic which starts four weeks later.
"I find it exciting that our young riders will have an opportunity to race against some of the world's top riders. It will be a reality check for many of them and they will find out what they need to improve if they really want to be internationally competitive."
Round four will take racers to Clarens on May 5-6. The Attakwas event will not be included in the series, but the Mabalingwe event on May 12 will be incorporated as round five.
"We would have loved to keep the Attakwas race because it is a well-organized and exciting event, but the problem is that we have no alternative to offer to the riders who do not want to race such a long distance. Logistically it is not possible to put a marathon on at the same time," Van der Walt said.
"We have decided on Mabalingwe because, although the MTN series is a national series, there has been no event in the north. Personally I think Mabalingwe can develop into one of the toughest races in the MTN series. We will look at possible improvements on the already great route at Mabalingwe"
The final three rounds will happen in Wellington on August 25-26; at the Hilton Dirt Fest on September 30; and at the Crater Cruise on October 14-15.
The marathon championship is scheduled to take place later in the season next year, namely in October, because of the Olympic Games.
2012 MTN South African Marathon Series
January 28: MTN Barberton
February 18: MTN Tulbagh
February 25-26: MTN Sabie
May 5-6: MTN Clarens
May 12: MTN Mabalingwe
August 25-26: MTN Wellington
September 30: MTN Hilton Dirt Fest
October 14-15: MTN Crater Cruise