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Riders from 10 countries will use the three-day event to sharpen their stage-race conditioning ahead of the 11th Cape Epic, which starts on 23 March.

Germany’s four-time Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt (Team Bulls) is the most notable name on the start list, but he and his stage-racing teammate, Urs Huber, winner of last month’s Fairview Attakwas Extreme, have opted to race in the Solo category at the Tankwa Trek. The 2013 Cape Epic runners-up will be difficult to beat in the Solo division and form only part of a strong Team Bulls contingent at the event.

Lining up in the two-rider team division for Team Bulls are Tim Bohme (GER) and Simon Stiebjan (GER), while Thomas Dietsche (FRA) will partner with three-time Cape Epic winner, Stefan Sahm (GER).

Also on the start list is Frantisek Rabon, the Czech rider that will partner with Christoph Sauser in his attempt to retain the Cape Epic title. Rabon will contest the Tankwa Trek with top South African, Erik Kleinhans on Team RE:CM.

Two other top South Africans tackling the Tankwa Trek are the Cannondale Blend pair of Charles Keey and Darren Lill. They wore the African leader’s jersey and finished in the top 10 at the 2013 Cape Epic despite Lill falling ill during the event. Other prominent men’s team race pairings include South African marathon champion, James Reid and Brendon Davids (Privateer/Trek), Nico Pfitzenmaier and Renay Grouwstra (Bicycling SA 1) and Dominic Calitz and Craig Boyes (Paarl Media).

The women’s team event has also attracted a strong line up, topped by the Team RE:CM pair of Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander. Kleinhans is the current Swiss marathon champion, while Stander is a former South African marathon champion.

Their chief Tankwa Trek rivals are likely to be the Pragma Orange Monkey’s pair of two-time Cape Epic winner, Hanlie Booyens and rising international cross-country racing star, Mariske Strauss and the Sasol Ladies team of Ischen Stopforth and Yolande de Villiers, another two-time Cape Epic champion. Another strong partnership sure to be in the podium mix is Yolandi du Toit and Swedish racer Jennie Stenerhag (Sasol Ladies).

A difficult-to-miss team name on the on the start list is that of Kalahari Ferrari, which comprises former Springbok rugby captains, Corne Krige and Tiaan Strauss, both now committed mountain bikers.

The sold-out race will see the participants tackle a total of 268 kilometres with 5340 metres of vertical ascent over the three days, starting on Friday. The event takes riders through the Witzenberg Valley, the Ceres Valley and into the Koue Bokkeveld, each offering its fair share of challenges and rewards in terms of terrain, vegetation and gradient.

Besides offering a first-class racing experience to a field limited to 400, the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek has embarked on a committed, long-term development initiative that will see farm workers from DUTOIT and Fairview participating in the event every year. DUTOIT is a leading producer of fruit and vegetables, while Fairview produces wine and cheese products.

“Five of our employees will participate in this year’s DUTOIT Tankwa Trek and we are looking forward to supporting them. All we want is for them to be able to say they finished the race and had fun doing it,” said Pieter du Toit, CEO of DUTOIT Group.

“They don’t have the same benefits as the majority of recreational mountain bikers, but they have bikes (thanks to Giant) and they have our support. In peak season we have up to 8000 employees on our lands and we believe that mountain biking can help improve their lives both in terms of health and transport. Next year we would like to see at least 20 of our employees participating in this race,” added Du Toit.