Previous ABSA Cape Epic winners and this year's hot favourites for the win, Karl Platt and Urs Huber from team Bulls have confirmed they will be on the start line with a full team contingent including Stefan Sahm, Tim Boehme, Simon Stiebjahn and Thomas Dietsch. Among the top names that have confirmed so far are Topeak Ergon team mates Kristian Hynek and Robert Mennen together with Konny Looser (Wheeler) from Switzerland who will also be testing the legs at MTN Tulbagh.
According to Platt, MTN Tulbagh will be their final preparation for the Epic "We've been racing a lot in South Africa the last couple of weeks and I'm quite happy with my form. The trails and conditions in Tulbagh are very similar to what we will encounter at the Epic and it will be the perfect test for the equipment and the legs" Platt added. "At MTN Sabie I was at 80% but I feel that I'm now at 100%, Urs and I will be racing to win and we won't necessarily take the cautious approach but rather push the limit. If I see the chance to go for the win I will take it"
The South African resistance will be led by an in form and frustrated Kevin Evans from FedGroup Itec. Evans has been on the cusp of announcing his return to form with a big win but so far he's been denied time and again. At MTN Dullstroom he suffered an untimely puncture after taking the lead on the King of the Mountains climb, he also finished in 3rd behind Huber and Platt at MTN Sabie to compound the frustration he was controversially forced into 3rd again at the Cape Argus MTB after a marshal error.
First round winner Lourens Luus (Team RE:CM) and runner up Charles Keey (Cannondale Blend) will have something to prove at MTN Tulbagh after a disappointing ride at MTN Sabie. It remains to be seen if 2013 National MTB Series winner Nico Bell (Team RE:CM) can return to the sharp end of the race together with Epic team mate Erik Kleinhans. Andrew Hill had a breakthrough result at MTN Sabie and will be out to prove it was not a fluke.
"We have a lot of racing in the legs and it will be interesting to see how the guys on the tired legs measure up against the riders looking to do well at the Epic" Luus commented. "At the moment it is quite hot and dry in the Cape and that really suits me, the route is also quite technical and I'm looking forward to improving on result after my horrible luck I had at MTN Sabie" he said.
It is interesting to note that both Platt and Evans were two of the main protagonists in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour this past weekend. The mountain biking women have also been making their presence felt on the road with Cherise Stander (Team RE:CM) taking a dominant win at the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour and team mate Ariane Kleinhans taking the win at the Tour de Boland.
Currently on one win each in the National MTB Series Ariane Kleinhans and Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) both confirmed they will be racing at MTN Tulbagh. Sally Bingham (Topeak Ergon) otherwise known as Iron Sally also confirmed her entry and is sure to be a contender for the win. Some of the other names to look out for are Jeannie Dreyer, Jennie Stenerhag, Emily Clarke and Yolandi du Toit.
Kleinhans said: "The MTN National MTB Series title is a focus for me this year and I am planning to do as many of the events as I can. I'm really looking forward to MTN Tulbagh, I really enjoyed the route last year and I expect it to be hotly contested. I'm quite happy with my shape heading into the Epic and with Cherise on form as well it be exciting with a team mate beside me".
The Saronsberg wine estate is only an hour away from Cape Town. Tulbagh was previously the host to stages of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic with an abundance of breath-taking mountain bike trails that are sure to challenge even the most adventurous.
The event does not only cater for the professionals and includes the following distances:
MTN Ultra - 105km | 2920m Ascent.
MTN Marathon - 74km | 1990m Ascent.
Nissan Half Marathon - 47km | 930m Ascent.
BuyCycle Fun Race - 20km | 150m Ascent.
BuyCycle Fun Ride - 10km | 35m Ascent.