South African marathoners will race the MTN Blockhouse, the fifth event of the MTN National Series on Sunday, August 30.
Kevin Evans, David George, and Matthys Beukes (all MTN); Brandon Stewart, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Johnny Kritzinger and Max Knox (all DCM Chrome) and Marc Bassingthwaighte, Francois Theron and Philip Buys (all Garmin adidas) are the favorites in the men's race.
Another rider to watch is Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized), who has proven with recent results that he is one of the most consistent riders in South Africa. During the past eight weeks, he finished on the podium every time he competed. He finished second most of the time; however, everything changed when he won the Lost City Mountain Bike Race last weekend.
The always smiling Swanepoel, who will race against the MTN, DCM Chrome and Garmin adidas teams, broke his elbow earlier this season during during the Sani2Sea, but the Blockhouse 110km event should suit Swanepoel to the tee. He has had some of his best results in this area where the climbs are not very long, especially because there is never quite enough time for a rider to recover during the constant up and down sections.
"I think it will be won by the rider who can out-think the rest," said Swanepoel. "At the end of the race, there will probably still be a big group of us left to battle it out to be the first across the finishing line. I will be ready."
As usual, Evans is the other firm favourite. He has just come back from Austria where he competed in the World Marathon Championship, finishing eighth overall, and he will be looking for a win to help him to a fifth overall South African marathon series title.
After his mechanical fiasco at the last round in Harrismith, which prevented him from defending his South African marathon title, Evans certainly has something to prove.
The women’s race could boil down to a battle royal between the three "Y's" of South African mountain biking. They are Yolandé Speedy (IMC), Yolandé du Toit (Konica-Minolta) and, if she is racing fit, Yolandé de Villiers (Toyota Cyclelab).
Speedy is the firm favourite but, after Du Toit’s good performance in Harrismith where she managed to outride Speedy during most of the race, nothing can be taken for granted.
Organizer Fritz Pienaar expects the winners to finish in a time under four hours. The race will start and finish at the headquarters of the Boswell Wilkie Circus in Meyerton, Gauteng. Nearly half the race will be on singletrack.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.