Reigning mountain bike marathon world champion, Christoph Sauser, has confirmed he will defend his title at the 2014 Fairview Attakwas Extreme on 18 January 2014, widely considered to be South Africa’s toughest one-day mountain bike race.
For the first time the popular 121 kilometre marathon will have a sponsor, with Fairview Wine & Cheese investing in the event that has become one of South Africa’s most prestigious one-day races. The eighth edition of the event, which takes in a total elevation gain of 2900 metres, is also set for a record entry, eclipsing the 1040 of 2013.
Sauser will head up a strong field in the marathon-racing-mad country in the first major race of the new year. The difficulty of the terrain in places through the rugged Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape province makes it an ideal preparation event for those serious about their performance at the 2014 Cape Epic, which starts nine weeks later.
Sauser’s winning time of 04 hours 56 minutes 29 seconds in 2013 is the new course record, with the 37-year-old Swiss becoming the first rider to break the five-hour barrier. Ariane Kleinhans (Team RE:CM), the 2013 women’s Attakwas champion and reigning Swiss marathon champion, has confirmed she will defend her title too.
“There are a few reasons for Fairview’s sponsorship of Attakwas,” said Fairview’s Charles Back. “Firstly, mountain bikers are within the market that consumes our products and secondly, some of our employees are keen mountain bikers.
“The other reason we’re backing the Attakwas race specifically, is it’s such a tough event that requires riders to tackle harsh elements, including heat, wind and difficult terrain. There is a similarity to wine-making here and it’s only by learning how to work with the elements and not against them that Attakwas riders – and wine-makers – succeed,” smiled Back.
In addition to Sauser, Germany’s four-time Cape Epic winner Karl Platt (Team Bulls) and multiple Attakwas winner and South African marathon champion, Kevin Evans (FedGroup Itec), have indicated their intention to be on the Attakwas start line, with more high profile riders expected to confirm their participation over the next few weeks.
The demanding event has also attracted the ABSA Celebrity Team, which includes former Springbok rugby players, Joel Stransky and Stefan Terblanche, actress Hlubi Mboya and radio and TV presenter, Liezel van der Westhuizen. They will use the event as part of their preparation for the 2014 Cape Epic.
There’s also an official singlespeed category to cater for the growing sub-culture. Five riders have already won a competition to start on Avalanche singlespeed bikes. The first of the five to finish will get to keep his bike.
For those that lack the endurance to tackle the full event, there’s the 52km Mini Atta, presented by Spur. With 1100 metres of ascent, it’s still challenging, but manageable for most.