Eight-time national road champion Anriëtte Schoeman will make her first foray into serious mountain biking at the world’s largest fully serviced stage race, the 251km Nedbank sani2c, presented by Nedbank Private Wealth, in KwaZulu-Natal from Thursday. Photo: Supplied

The seven-time Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour winner and eight-time national road champion will take on the three-day race from Underberg to Scottburgh alongside another converted dirt roadie Gary Marescia.

Riding in the colours of Aca Joe, for whom she is a brand ambassador, Schoeman said she was excited to fulfil a long-held ambition.

“I’ve seriously been wanting to do sani2c since I got my mountain bike at the end of last year. I tried to get an entry but was too late, so I was thrilled when I got the news.

“There are lots of stage races but I’ve always wanted to do sani2c because it’s such an awesome event and every seasoned mountain biker raves about it, so I thought I’d put it on my bucket list. I can’t wait to experience it myself.”

When asked whether she would be aiming for a podium finish, the five-time 94.7 Cycle Challenge winner said she would be using the event to sharpen her off-road skills.

“I think because this is my first mountain bike stage race I will just aim to learn from Gary and enjoy it. But my competitive nature might kick in at some point and it could turn into a race!”

Schoeman, who has represented South Africa at both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, said she enjoyed the thrill of mountain biking but still had much to learn.

“I kind of enjoy crazy descents but my ‘let’s go down this hill as fast as possible and see what happens’ attitude doesn’t really count as a skill.”

The Port Elizabeth resident said she found the discipline a very different challenge to road racing, which involves bunch-oriented riding.

“In mountain biking there is absolutely no place to hide. You have to be physically strong and never get to rest or hide in the peloton.

“I quite enjoy pushing myself, but I must admit mountain biking requires a lot of mental toughness and patience, as you go much slower than on a road bike and half the distance might take twice as long.”

Unlike other roadies who have successfully made the transition, the 35-year-old said her participation did not represent a career segue into off-road racing.

“I don’t think I will ever fully convert to mountain biking but I must admit it’s a lot of fun and the change of scenery is like a breath of fresh air.”

The 2013 edition of Nedbank sani2c, presented by Nedbank Private Wealth, features the world-first 360Life floating bridge, which will see participants ride out onto the Indian Ocean en route to the finish at Scottburgh’s main beach.

Schoeman will join 4 500 other riders across the Trail (May 14 to 16), Adventure (May 15 to 17) and Race (May 16 to 18) components.

Visit www.sani2c.co.za, find the race on Facebook or follow @sani2c_scoop.