World-class field for Attakwas MTB Marathon

15 January 2014

The eighth edition of the Fairview Attakwas Extreme mountain bike marathon has attracted a powerful field, including top Swiss, German and Czech racers, for Saturday’s year-opening showdown in the Western Cape.

South Africa’s best marathoners will take on the international stars over a 121-kilometre route that starts and finishes just outside the town of Oudtshoorn.

Current world champion

Topping the start list in the men’s race is the defending champion, Christoph Sauser of Specialized Racing. The Swiss ace is the current marathon world champion and a four-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic.

Sauser brings with him his new Specialized Racing international teammate, Frantisek Rabon of the Czech Republic. It will be Rabon’s first participation in the event in a year in which he switches his focus from road racing to mountain biking. He previously raced for ProTour teams T-Mobile and Omega Pharma Quickstep.

A powerful German contingent will also be on the starting line. Karl Platt, a four-time Absa Cape Epic winner will head up the four-man Team Bulls squad, which includes compatriots Stefan Sahm, a three-time Epic champion, and Simon Stiebjan. Platt and Sahm have both finished on the podium at Attakwas before.

Cross country star

Another high profile German, Manuel Fumic, will make his Attakwas Extreme debut. Better known as one of the world’s top cross-country racers, Fumic was seventh at the 2012 Olympic Games and was runner-up at the 2013 World Championships in Pietermaritzburg. The Cannondale Factory Team racer competed in his first Cape Epic last year, finishing fifth.

Urs Huber, the Swiss rider who partnered Platt to second place at the 2013 Cape Epic, is also confirmed to start the race for Team Bulls.

South African challenge

The South African challenge is led by three-time Attakwas Extreme winner and multiple former national marathon champion, Kevin Evans of FedGroup Itec, who makes a return to racing after a lengthy recovery following complications related to a burst appendix. Evans will be joined by FedGroup Itec teammate Neil MacDonald on the start line.

Other strong South Africans to watch are the Cannondale Blend trio of Darren Lill, Waylon Woolcock and Charles Keey, while Team RE:CM’s triple threat comes from Nico Bell, Erik Kleinhans and Lourens Luus, last year ‘s runner-up. Dark horses include Louis Brelser Knipe (PYGA) and Adriaan Louw (SWIFT/Fairview).

Women’s line-up

The women’s field also boasts class and depth with defending champion Ariane Kleinhans, the current Swiss marathon champion and two-time Cape Epic Mixed division winner, topping a quality line-up. She will be joined by new Team RE:CM teammate Cherise Stander, the 2012 South African marathon champion, who will make her Attakwas Extreme debut.

Current South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot of Biogen Cycle Lab, will also be in the mix, along with two-time Cape Epic winner Hanlie Booyens, while Ischen Stopforth, a seven-time Attakwas finisher with multiple podium places and Jeannie Dreyer, the Freedom Challenge champion and record holder, complete the list of high-profile female entrants.

Celebrities

Over 1200 riders have already entered the event, which has also attracted South African celebrities, who will be riding for the Absa Team at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. They include former Springbok rugby stars Joel Stranksy and Stefan Terblanche, radio and TV presenter Liezel van der Westhuizen, and actress Hlubi Mboya.

The 121km race includes a total of 2 900 metres of vertical ascent, making it a serious challenge by anyone’s standards. Add in the rough terrain of the Klein Karoo, the excessive heat, which can easily reach over 40 degrees Celsius in January, and the traditional headwind in the final 40km and you have a gruelling year-opener for the world of marathon mountain bike racing.

Mini Atta

Entries for the Fairview Attakwas Extreme have closed. However, for those keen to sample the event, there’s a relatively challenging 52km Mini Atta, presented by Spur. Late entries (with a late entry fee penalty) can still be done until race day.

SAinfo reporter