Johannesburg - All eyes will be on defending champion Kevin Evans when the three-day Sani2c mountain bike race gets underway in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday.
Evans, who is slowly returning to form following complications from abdominal surgery, will defend his title in the 271km race alongside partner Gawie Combrinck.
"I think we have a great chance at a podium but the racing will be very close this year," Evans said on Wednesday.
"One small mistake could cost you the race and, if we're smart, being in the right place at the right time could be the difference between a podium and a win."
The FedGroup-Itec duo should face stiff competition from a strong field which includes JoBerg2c champions Neil MacDonald and Brandon Stewart, as well as runners-up Waylon Woolcock and Lourens Luus.
Evans said he was still regaining his best form after battling with a recurring abscess following an appendectomy two years ago.
"It was a surgical problem but fortunately some good doctors finally got to the bottom of it this year," he said.
"The form is improving slowly, bearing in mind that I've only been back on the bike for six weeks.
"I think Combrinck will be the stronger rider for sure at this stage in our partnership."
The Sani2c finishes at Scottburgh, in KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday.