The rider who wins the 105km MTN Tulbagh marathon on Saturday, May 14 will have the right to claim that he is one of South Africa's top endurance mountain bikers. A star studded line-up, with nearly all the top names present, is expected for round five of the marathon national series.
Organizers worked to strike a balance between a track that was enjoyable for a wide range of participants and one that would be challenging. "There is a fine line between just having hard routes and having memorable experiences on the bike over a challenging route," said Wessel van der Walt, COO of Advendurance.
En route, racers will catch glimpses of magnificent scenes in the Saronsberg mountains. The course winds its way around farm dams, between luscious green vineyards and along rocky mountain tracks edged with indigenous fynbos, including proteas. The route completes an anti-clockwise loop around the town of Tulbagh.
Kevin Evans (360Life) said last week that the racing in and around Tulbagh is made difficult by the loose sandy sections and loose rocks.
Max Knox (Ghost DIN) is the one rider who is not at all upset by the rumours of a tough and technical race. "It is a first for me. I have never even driven through Tulbagh, so I really don't know what to expect. In a way it is just as well because, seeing that everything will be new to me, I cannot get worked up about anything."
"If I take the race as it comes, doing what I do best which is riding my mountain bike as hard as I can. It will be merely a matter of seeing how things turn out," said Knox.
"It might even suit me if there should be lots of loose sand and rocks on route because I quite enjoy fighting my way through nature's obstacles. One way or another, it will be an interesting race for spectators to watch."
Knox refused, however, to be tipped as one of the pre-race favourites. "In my opinion, David George (360Life) will be the one to beat because, having competed in the Cape Epic, he is used to Tulbagh's racing conditions. David is also due for a good result."
"And I, for one, will never underestimate Kevin (Evans), even if he has just made his comeback after having broken his collarbone. Kevin is one of those really hard riders who knows how to push himself to the limit."
Other riders to watch include Mannie Heymans (Garmin-adidas) and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka). Niyonshuti crashed during a stage race last week, but recovered well toward the end of that race, putting in some hard kilometres.
Darren Lill (DCM), the South African road champion, could also cause a big surprise.