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Team TIB Insurance, consisting of Andrew Hill (pictured) and Tyron Bird, come into this weekend's inaugural dusi2c MTB race as firm pre-race favourites.

Photo: Supplied/Gameplan Media

Ideal weather is expected for the big field of riders, which includes some of the country's elite mountain bikers and many seasoned riders with sani2c and joberg2c experience. 2012 ROAG series winner Andrew Hill and his partner Leeroy Emslie make up team TIB Insurance and will start as hot favourites, while the RMB Change A Life Academy duo of John Ntuli and Bongamusa Zikhali will be eager to exploit what they see as homeground advantage.

"It's should be a really exciting couple of days of riding this weekend," said Hill. "You always know when enter a Farmer Glen event that it’s going to be quality and that you're going to experience the best track that could possibly have been built so it should be great."

"Being from the area I've ridden in the valley a couple of times before so I know just how beautiful it is down there, which I'm sure many will really be blown away by over the next couple of days, so it’s really exciting that we'll now be able to race down there too."

"I haven't ridden a stage race with Tyron (Bird) before but he's in some really good form at the moment and is looking really strong and I've won the races I've done over the past three weekends so I'm looking forward to racing together this weekend. It should be some great fun.

"Winning or trying to do well is always at the back of your mind when you take part in a race but at the same time it’s a new event with a new format of racing via GPS so we'll just look to have a good time, see how things go and hopefully get a positive result as well," he added.

Also in the field is the new Dusi champion Lance Kime, who will be riding with his cousin Owen Gandar, as part of the social contingent in the field. Apart from preparing to compete, Kime has also recently spent time in the valley assisting the Haw family and their team of helpers with the route preparation.

"It is single track heaven!" said Kime. "The guys will basically be riding new single track all the way to Durban. And it's not the sort of single track that we are used to, which is normally through forests. This is through rural grasslands and it is unbelievable."

"It feels quite different to any other mountain bike race I have done," added Kime. "Virtually all of the single track is new, and has been cut over the past month or two, so it will get even better with time as it compacts."

The race will break new ground for the sport in South Africa as it will be raced entirely by GPS navigation and the route, incorporating the new single track that has been cut specifically for the race, will not be marked by traditional flags and boards.

The idea, the brainchild of race director "Farmer" Glen Haw, is being viewed with interest as a pilot project for future races in the country.

"Part of the idea is based on the need to guarantee the safety of every single rider in the field," says Haw, who will be riding with his wife Mandy. "Safety is and will always be our number one priority."

"But it is also based on the reality that traditional marking is flawed," he added. "We know that youngsters in the valley take delight in either removing or redirecting markers set out for mountain bike races. The GPS route is basically infallible."

Kime, like many of the riders, is having to make a plan to get a GPS for the event, and with less than 24 hours to the start, was scrambling with Gandar to borrow one and get it loaded with the race route.

Haw places huge emphasis on making sure every rider thoroughly enjoys the experience in the Valley of a Thousand Hills and is confident that, with the unqualified support of the local communities, that the race can kick start a year-round mountain biking guiding and tourism infrastructure.

"Ultimately, this partnership aims to compliment the tourism opportunity for the local rural people of the uMngeni valley. The idea is to follow the valleys all the way to Durban and create employment opportunities along the race route," said Haw.

"So far over 1200 man-days have been utilized, with 98% coming from the local rural communities," said Haw.

The route will stay close to the Dusi Canoe Marathon route, shadowing the uMsundusi River to its confluence with the uMngeni River and down to Durban, using the area being developed by the Durban Green Corridor from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon for the final sectors of the race.

The race will criss-cross the river, including floating pontoon crossings at Yellow Rock, Dusi Bridge and Mango Rapid, as well as an innovative ride down the chute at the weir below Commercial Road in Pietermaritzburg.

The 75km first stage will start at Camps Drift where the Dusi Canoe Marathon starts, and will follow the uMsundusi River to the confluence with the uMngeni River down to the Mfula Store overnight stop, climbing 650m in the process. The 68km second stage to Blue Lagoon in Durban climbs 688 metres.

The entire field will overnight at the iconic Mfula Store site in the uMngeni valley, which has been the scene of massive development in recent weeks, flattening and preparing campsites, and installing massive permanent boilers for the showers.

"I did a sani2c when I was fifteen and I was blown away by the overnight campsites," says Kime. "I could not believe how well they looked after us, so I can’t wait to see what is happening at Mfula Store. Farmer Glen always puts on a very good show!"

The dusi2c mountain bike race takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June 2013. More information can be found at www.dusi2c.co.za