Some of the world’s leading mountain bike stage racers have indicated they will be on the start line of the second edition of the Dutoit’s Tankwa Trek, a three day stage race that’s fast-growing in stature and which takes place in the Cedarberg region of South Africa’s Western Cape province in February 2013.
Germany’s four-time Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt and three of his Team Bulls stablemates, Urs Huber, Simon Stiebjan and Tim Bohme, have shown a strong interest in tackling the challenging event; while already confirmed to start are the South African-based Cannondale Blend team, which comprises Darren Lill, Charles Keey and new signing, Waylon Woolcock, all winners of South African National Marathon Series events in 2013. Woolcock also won the inaugural edition of the Tankwa Trek with Lourens Luus (RE:CM).
Another top South African team, RE:CM, has also confirmed its entry. The men’s squad comprises Erik Kleinhans, Lourens Luus and Nico Bell, while the women’s contingent is Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander. Bell’s consistency in 2013 saw him claim the overall men’s title in both the MTN National Marathon Series and the Kia National Rankings, South Africa’s marathon rankings system; while Ariane Kleinhans, the current Swiss marathon champion, was also the top-ranked female in South African marathon racing in 2013.
More leading riders are expected to join the illustrious start list during January. The professional teams will only finalise two-rider partnerships closer to the time, based on the form of the riders and their objectives. Taking place from 14-16 February, the Tankwa Trek is five weeks before the 2014 Cape Epic, making it a preferred preparation event for most, especially with the expected weather conditions and additions to the route being similar to those experienced in the Cape Epic.
The total distance is 268km with 5 340 metres of vertical ascent, which is a similar ratio of climbing to distance that riders will encounter in the Cape Epic. Different farmers – all of whom are avid mountain bikers – across whose land the event traverses have designed each stage.
Stage 1, designed by brothers, Sakkie and Hannes Hannekom, incorporates 88km with 1 890 metres of climbing and heads through the Witzenberg Valley, which is accessed via a recently opened ox wagon trail. The major climb of the day is a 12km haul through pine forest plantations.
For Stage 2, a 91km leg with 2 300m of ascent designed by Mauritz Walters, the Merino Monster is the dominant feature. It’s a climb that takes the riders out of the Ceres Valley over total distance of 25km with the last 8km at an average gradient of 12%. The stage also includes two significant descents, the Wilde Merino Monster and the Dutoit’s Drop, which are said to be significantly rewarding for all the climbing effort required on the day.
“The Dutoit’s Drop is a brand new section of singletrack constructed next to the Gydo Pass from Nooitgedacht to Koelfontein. It drops 300 metres in three kilometres, and has been bench-cut into the mountainside,” explained Fred Lingenvelder, Route Manager for Dryland Event Management, the organisers.
“The new descent from the top of Merino Monster climb runs along an old jeep track for nine kilometres with a total of 785m drop in altitude. The surface varies from solid rock to hard sand and even swampy river sections. Some fast technical sections will keep the riders focussed. Most of this work has been done with the help of students who have just finished Grade 12 and are doing holiday work,” added Lingenvelder.
The final stage, designed by Charl van der Merwe, covers a total of 89km (1 150m of ascent), with the first 26km being neutral. At kilometre 27, the route heads into the dramatic sandstone rock formations, which includes 30km of new singletrack and specially built bridges before the riders complete the stage and the event.
All stages will start and finish at the Kaleo Guest Farm.
Following the success of the inaugural edition in 2013, the Dutoit Group, a leading producer and distributor of fruit and vegetables based in Ceres, has invested in the title sponsorship of the Tankwa Trek.
“The Dutoit Group would like to welcome the Tankwa Trek to our birth place in the mountains. We are sure that you will enjoy the beautiful surroundings and have new appreciation for the Dutoit fruit from the mountains. I am certain that the fresh air, friendly people and intimidating mountains will make the challenge an experience that will lift your spirit to a new high!” said Pieter du Toit, Managing Director: Marketing, Dutoit Group.
With the Dutoit Group backing, the event will be offering equal prizemoney to men and women for team and solo overall positions as well the top climbers on the Merino Monster, with R10 000, R5000 and R3000 on offer to the first three men and women each to reach the summit of the formidable ascent.
Limited entries are still available for the 2014 Tankwa Trek. For more information, click here.