The DCM Cape Pioneer Trek is drawing an increasingly international-level field as the start approaches next week. The mountain bike stage race will start on October 17 and finish on October 22 in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.
Christopher Sauser (Specialized), currently the marathon world champion, has already established himself as one of the tour's stalwarts. The Swiss rider has made it clear that something drastic will have to happen for him to miss out on the fun of the Cape Pioneer Trek.
Sauser is not the only world-class rider who has entered. Sweden's Alexandra Engen, a former under 23 cross country world champion, is another big name who could not resist the temptation of coming to South Africa to test her mountain biking skills in the Klein Karoo.
The 23-year-old Swede will team up with South Africa's Mariske Strauss (Contego/Giant/Sludge) to compete in the women's category.
Engen's racing CV makes for impressive reading. She was the Swedish elite women's cross country champion in 2007-2009; won a silver medal in 2009 at an under 23 World Cup race; and won a silver medal at the 2009 European under cross country championship and a gold medal in the team relay.
Neither Engen nor Strauss has ever ridden a six-day stage race. But Strauss, South Africa's current cross country champion, does not worry too much about this fact.
"Our approach to the Cape Pioneer Trek will be to take the race one day at a time," said Strauss.
"I am definitely not a tour expert, but there is no need to be a rocket scientist to realize that it would be a mistake to try to race flat out from day one.
"Luckily I have an idea of what to expect. My grandfather stays in the area and I had done some hard training there in the past."