Favourite after a compelling win in the Marathon World Championships in Ballyhoura, Ireland, on June 15 will be Absa Cape Epic legend and four-times winner Christoph Sauser, of Switzerland.

Sauser, who is the defending champion, will face a stiff challenge from the man he partnered to his fourth Absa Cape Epic victory in 2013, Olympic gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic. Kulhavy finished second under a minute behind Sauser at Ballyhoura.

Also in the race will be the other four-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt of Germany, who has recovered from the knee injury he picked up in a crash in this year’s race. He will joined on the start line by three times Epic winner Stefan Sahm, also of Germany, and Roel Paulissen of Belgium, who has won the eight-day event twice.

Other names that will be familiar to fans of the Absa Cape Epic will be Alban Lakata of Austria, the Czech Republic’s Frantisek Rabon and Germans Tim Bohme, Daniel Gathof, Moritz Milatz, Simon Stiebjahn and Steffen Thum.

Joining Sauser in the Swiss contingent will be top Epic competitors Urs Huber, Ralph Naef and Lukas Buchli. Naturally, a whole host of South Africans will be in the field. They include Epic stalwarts such as Nico Bell, Matthys Beukes, Kevin Evans, Gert Heyns, Max Knox, Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock.

The triumphant pair of women from this year’s Absa Cape Epic, Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans and Dane Annika Langvad, will also be on the starting line at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park in Pietermaritzburg.

They will be be confronted by the pair of women who came second in the 2014 Cape Epic, Briton Sally Bigham and Switzerland’s Esther Suss. Another favourite will be Swiss rider Milena Landtwing - who finished fourth at this year’s Absa Cape Epic.

South Africans in the field include Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph.

The men will race 95km and the women 74km, starting and finishing at the mountain bike park.