There is no guarantee that a South African mountain biker will win the MTN Attakwas ultra-marathon race on Saturday, 15 January.
For the first time there will be international ranking points on offer, it is a safe bet to say that the overseas ‘visitors’ will race to win. Three of the world’s top international mountain bikers, i.e. Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (both Germany) and Johnni Junker Nielsen (Denmark), have entered, which means that the South African riders will have their work cut out.
Kevin Evans, the defending champion, will not be racing because of an appendectomy three weeks ago. This means that David George (360Life) and Max Knox (DCM) are definitely the pre-race favourites. But rumour has it that Mannie Heymans (Garmin-adidas) is on good form at the moment and hungry to pull off a big one.
Platt and Sahm are no strangers to the South African mountain biking scene. They have won the UCI sanctioned Cape Epic in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Platt, who can actually be considered to be one of the true ‘legends’ of international marathon mountain biking, also won the inaugural Epic with Heymans as his teammate.
He belongs to a small elite group of riders who can boast of having won the ‘Triple Crown of endurance’ twice. To win the ‘Triple Crown’ a rider has to win the Cape Epic (South Africa), the Trans-Alp (Germany) and the Trans Rockies (USA) all in the same calendar year. The first time Platt accomplished this feat, he did it with three different racing partners.
In 2007 Platt and Sahm managed to complete the endurance hat trick.
The MTN-Attakwas is, arguably one of the toughest one-day races in South Africa. It is definitely not a race for novices. The first half of the race uses the 25 kilometer-long Attakwas jeep trail to cross the Outeniqua Mountain Range. This challenging stretch comprises some of the technically most demanding jeep tracks and trails found in South Africa.
It is interesting to note that this is the same route that was used by the Voortrekker pioneers in their ox-wagons during the nineteenth century in their quest to reach the interior of the country.
Another rider that might surprise on the day is MTN Qhubeka’s Adrien Niyonshuti who rode a brilliant race during the 2010 DCM Cape Pioneer over this very route and is definitely one of the wild-cards for the MTN Attakwas.
According to Evans, the MTN Attakwas Ultra Marathon compares favourably with international races. Riders, who have always wondered what it would be like to race internationally, should therefore make sure that they don’t miss out.
For full results and more info visit www.mtncycling.co.za