The event will once again follow the new two-day racing format. For the marathon, that means that Day 1 will be a 70km race with 1585 metres of ascent and Day 2 will be a 51km leg with 1102 metres of climbing. For the half-marathon, there’s a 44km Day 1 route with 978 metres of vertical gain and Day 2 is 36km with 682 metres of climbing.

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Max Knox, at the National MTB Series sound 2 in Sabie, is sure to use the climbing and elevation to his advantage this weekend at the 4th round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Champagne Valley. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za
Men’s Marathon Series leader Max Knox (New Holland/This Way Out) will be on the start line, as will newly crowned South African champion, Nico Bell (Team NAD Pro), who is currently lying second in the prestigious series. Also confirmed are Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD Pro) and the Pyga Eurosteel pair of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes and Ascendis Health’s Gert Heyns.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the people from Advendurance have in store for us at this new venue,” said Knox, who comes fresh off securing two dominant wins at the Sappi Karkloof Classic and the Vodacom Hippo Hollow Challenge.

“The new two-day format of the series has made the racing closer, which is good for the sport. I’m quite happy with the shorter distances, but personally like there to be some tough climbs and a generous helping of singletrack so that the stages are still challenging,” added Knox, who is the defending series men’s champion.

“This will be the first race of our second block of racing this year. We had some time off after SA Marathon Champs followed with a solid two weeks of training in the George area with Matthys. The legs feel fresh and the shape is good,” said Buys, who, along with Beukes, won the Old Mutual joBerg2c and KAP Sani2c since their one-two success at Round 3 in Clarens in early April.

In the women’s event, current series leader Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) will be out to extend her lead. She’s been recovering from recent illness, but is looking for a strong performance this weekend as it forms part of her build-up for the Marathon World Championships in Germany later this month.

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Current series leader Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) will be out to extend her lead this weekend at the 4th round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Champagne Valley. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za
“I’m really looking forward to the routes at this venue. I’ve only ever been to Champagne Valley for holidays as a kid. But I can imagine the mountain biking must be bliss there. Advendurance always stages good events and I try to compete in as many of them as I can. At the Ashburton Investments Series, the racing is tough and the routes are always challenging, as they should be in XCM mountain biking,” said De Groot.

Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia), currently second in the women’s series rankings, will also be at Round 4 this weekend.

“I feel like I have good form going into the race. I’m very excited about the new venue. Having ridden there before I know we are in for a treat!” said McDougall.

In addition to the marathon and half-marathon two-day events, there will also be a single-day marathon and half-marathon on Saturday (no points or prizemoney). And a 20km Fun Race on Saturday followed by a 10km Fun Ride on Sunday.

“There’s an event for everyone. And for most, it’s possible to participate on both days, which makes for a very rewarding weekend away. Champagne Valley is just a two-hour drive from Durban and a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria so we are expecting quite a decent sized field,” said Wessel van der Walt of Advendurance.

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Philip Buys and teammate Matthys Beukes (Pyga Eurosteel) will also be thrown into this weekend's mix at the 4th round of the Ashburton National MTB Series in Champagne Valley. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za