Following the hype of the first two Sasol Cross Triathlon events at Buffelspoort and Abrahamsrust, off-road action continues in the penultimate instalment at the Emerald Resort and Casino in Vanderbijlpark this Sunday.

With hometown favourite and last year’s overall champion Rudolf Naude out of contention due to injury, the stage is set for rising star Pieter van der Mescht (Inov-8) to make a clean sweep of victories.

The Pretoria-based triathlete should encounter tough competition from the likes of Philippe van der Leeuw, who podiumed in last year’s event, Dreyer van Huyssteen and Theo Blignaut.

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Cross triathletes will head for the Emerald Resort and Casino in Vanderbijlpark on Sunday to take part in the penultimate instalment of the Sasol Cross Triathlon events. Photo: Ocker Odendaal

National XTERRA champion Carla van Huyssteen (Inov-8) of Pretoria is expected to stamp her authority on the women’s race, after fending off challenges from competitors such as Sylvia van Tromp and Susan Sloan in previous encounters.

According to race director Louis Harmse, of Spectrum Sport, this weekend’s sprint triathlon promised to be a good warm-up ahead of the fourth and final event – the ATU African Cross Triathlon Continental Championships at Hartebeespoort on April 15.

He said he had received confirmation that the Vaal River was currently “very clean” and that conditions would be excellent for Sunday’s 600m swim.

On the mountain biking side, participants could look forward to large sections of jeep and single track on the 20km route. “It’s going to be fairly flat and very fast.”

Runners should expect an equally quick pace on the 5.5km trail leg, as the undulating cross country course did not include any threatening climbs, said Harmse.

“This will be the final opportunity for athletes to take part in the canoe triathlon event as the African champs doesn’t offer this category.”

Alternatively, non-swimmers can take part in the duathlon, which starts off with an opening 3km trail run.

“Athletes in all disciplines will be eligible for a share of the R10 000 prize purse,” said Harmse.

He said feedback from participants in the previous races had been very positive. “It seems they love the idea of an event in which the pros, average competitors and beginners all take part together.”

Harmse said this development aspect had been one of their key focus areas since the inaugural series of events in 2009.

“We aim to promote the sport of off-road triathlon from ground level up. That’s why we include children’s events and base the majority of our races on the sprint distances.”

He said the children’s duathlon had proved very popular and there would be two racing categories (five to nine and 10 to 15 years). Harmse advised families to arrive early for pre-race registration.

Participants can enter online (www.cyclelab.com) and registration takes place from 6am on race day at the venue.