Multiple world champion and five-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Christoph Sauser (Investec-Songo-Specialized) heads up a high-profile field in the Elite men’s race. He will continue his rivalry against fellow five-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt (Bulls) and 2015 Cape Epic champion, Kristian Hynek (Topeak Ergon).
The trio delivered a spectacular podium battle at the Fairview Attakwas ultra-marathon last weekend and will find themselves in a field with even more depth in Grabouw on Saturday.
Also confirmed are: Alban Lakata, the 2015 marathon world champion; South Africa’s Erik Kleinhans, who was fourth at Attakwas and Jeremiah Bishop, America’s most successful stage racer. All four will be competing for the Topeak Ergon team and their superior numbers are sure to count in their favour.
Another high profile team is that of Cannondale Factory Racing, which boasts German Manual Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini. They won the final stage of the 2016 Cape Epic and are in the country early to prepare for their assault on the 2017 edition in late March.
“It will certainly be a different race to Attakwas. Higher watts packed into a shorter racing time on a smoother surface,” said Sauser. “I am quite positive I will be in contention for a podium finish again. Close racing or not, I would be more than happy to repeat last weekend’s result!”
“I’m looking forward to racing on those great trails around Grabouw. It’s a very short race, not really the best preparation distance for the Cape Epic, but it will at least be close, exciting racing,” said Platt.
It will be the first competitive outing of 2017 for defending Ashburton Investments National MTB Series champion, Max Knox (New Holland/This Way Out), who says he looking forward to the shorter distance.
“I’m looking forward to the new Ashburton Investments National MTB Series format. The racing will be more aggressive with more riders in contention for podiums. With this in mind, you cannot afford to make mistakes,” said Knox.
“A 75km race is about one hour longer than a XCO race so it allows the cross-country racers a chance to be competitive in marathons too; and the courses will also be more interesting with a higher percentage of singletrack, which I really enjoy. I’ve always liked the trails around Grabouw in the Cape Epic and I’m looking forward to racing on them on Saturday,” added Knox.
Other leading South Africans on the start list are multiple Cape Epic stage-winners, Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes, racing in the colours of their new team, Euro-Steel/Pyga, the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger, Cannondale Red-E’s Matt Beers, Dylan Rebello, Lourens Luus and Andrew Hill (TIB).
The women’s race also boasts an exceptionally strong field. The 2016 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series champion, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), heads the entry list. The current South African champion finished second at last weekend’s Attakwas ultra-marathon, indicating her good form early in the year.
Also on the entry list are Swiss marathon champion, Ariane Lüthi (Team Spur), Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (CBC/Abro), South Africa’s London Olympian, Candice Lill (Dormakaba) and Namibian champion, Vera Adrian (Dormakaba).
“I’m excited to race in Grabouw. It’s such a beautiful area with amazing trails. The Cape Epic will be going through there this year so this will be a good reminder of what the terrain is like and this Ashburton Investments National MTB Series event will be good preparation race. As I saw at Attakwas, I’m not quite where my rivals are at this stage. It’s amazing how strong the women’s fields have become in South African events. It means that I have to be at my best and I’m looking forward to another good podium battle on Saturday,” said Lüthi.
Annika Langvad, Denmark’s current XCO World Champion, is on the start list, but will only decide closer to the weekend if she will race as she’s been nursing a cold this week. Should she be on the start line, she’ll be a firm favourite for the win as she confirmed with a course record and victory at Attakwas last weekend that she’s in very good form.
“With no gruelling ultra-marathon, the race pace will be faster, the pressure higher and the racing smarter as riders do battle over 75km. This by no means makes it an easy race (it's a National event after all), the route is well balanced with plenty rewards, challenges and suprises that will make for tight racing to the line delivering a very comprehensive test to the competitors,” said Wessel van der Walt, Head of Marketing and Communications for Advendurance, the organising company.
“Although there have been many fires in the area, the routes for Saturday’s race haven’t been significantly affected and are considered safe. Thanks to our Advendurance crew and those of Pieter Silberbauer, Johan Kriegler and Pieter du Plessis, all the intended trails for our race on the A-Z Trails and the Cape Pine Trails are cleared for racing,” added Van der Walt.
In addition to the marathon, which covers a distance of 75km with an accumulated ascent of 1500m, there is a half marathon (43km with 900m ascent), a 20km Fun Race and a 10km Fun Ride.
Online entries will remain open until race day and can be done through: www.nationalmtbseries.com.
Round 1, Grabouw Country Club, Grabouw:
Friday 27 January 2017
15h00-18h00: Registration and line entries
Saturday 28 January 2017
06h30-09h30: Registration and line entries
07h30: Start Marathon A. Batches + 5 min intervals
08h30: Start Half-marathon Batches `+ 5 min intervals
09h30: 20km Fun Race
09h45: 10km Fun Ride
12h00: Prize Giving
For more information, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com.