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Stellenbosch Challenge

As the official venue of stop number four on the South African Mazda MTN National MTB Series, this year's Stellenbosch Mountain Bike Challenge will take place on August 2. The 66km route, which starts with a 4km climb, will pass through 21 vineyards. 42km and 15km options will also be available. The event will double as the South African national marathon championships, in which 12 national titles will be awarded.

Kevin Evans (MTN Energade) is leading the men's series after three events thus far.

"Obviously the climbs are my strength and I'll be making the most of that whenever the road points up," said a typically modest Evans on Thursday. "I've never done this race before, but I believe it's harder than it seems."

Likely racing with Evans are David George (MTN Energade), Johnny Kritzinger (Schwinn), John Paul Pearton (USN), Francis Theron (USN), Brandon Stewart (USN), Renay Goustra (Mongoose) and Oliver Munnik (Mongoose), Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin DCM) along with Evans' team-mates Mannie Heymans and Melt Swanepoel. Burry Stander (GT Bicycles) will be absent while overseas preparing for the Olympic Games.

For the women, Carla Rowley (MTN Energade) sits atop the standings, ahead of Yolandi du Toit (Garmin DCM), Sanet Smal, Samantha Oosthuizen (Garmin DCM) and Adele Drake.

However, South Africa's top woman, Yolande Speedy, is hoping that when she heads off to represent her country at the Olympic Games in a week's time that she will take with her the confidence of a winner and the glory of another national title. The 32 year-old Johannesburg racer, who rides for IMC Racing/Activeworx, is the favorite.

Speedy will also have to contend with Tania Raats (Maverick), last year's winner Michelle Lombardi and other top Western Cape racers, Hanlie Booyens and Sara Muhl (both Jeep).

"I'm in very good form ahead of Beijing, but there are various factors in a mountain bike race that can affect the results such as crashes and mechanical issues. Hopefully everything will go smoothly for me on Saturday," said Speedy.

Conspicuously absent will be last year's South African championship silver medallist and Speedy's archrival, Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Toyota) who recently underwent surgery to a damaged shoulder and South African cross-country champion, Amy Jane Mundy (Fox), who is recovering from illness.

For those seeking entertainment outside of racing, the event will be held in conjunction with the Stellenbosch Wine Festival. Dylan Victor, one of South Africa's premier trials riders will be performing his trick show at the challenge.

Over 4000 entries have already been received.

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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.