Cape Town - Germany’s Karl Platt and
his Swiss team-mate, Urs Huber, are motivated to defend their title at next
week’s Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, but will be up against
stronger opposition than last year at the world’s most prestigious three-day
mountain bike stage race.
Now an International Cycling Union (UCI)-graded event, the fifth edition of the
Tankwa Trek has drawn some of the world’s biggest mountain bike racing stars,
many of them using the race as a preparation event ahead of next month’s Absa
Platt and Huber are also the defending Cape Epic champions and Tankwa Trek will
be their first race together since the TransAlp, last July. The well-drilled
pair will also be joined by their Bulls stablemates, Tim Boehme and Simon Stiebjahn
at Tankwa Trek, which offers three days of challenging routes through the
Kouebokkeveld region of the Western Cape province.
“Tankwa Trek will be a mini-Cape Epic for us. We are taking it really
seriously, not just the riders, but the whole support crew too. We have new
bikes since last year, but otherwise everything else is the same, including our
motivation,” said Platt.
“The terrain and the gradients at the Tankwa Trek are similar to the Cape Epic.
I have some good form as I saw at the Attakwas and Urs has been doing his huge
training block as normal in Grand Canaria. It’s always exciting when we race
together again after a long break and we are keen to hold onto our titles -
Tankwa Trek and Cape Epic,” smiled Platt.
The pressure on the Bulls will be high though. They’ll be facing more depth in
opposition than at last year’s Tankwa Trek, led by last year’s runners-up,
Switzerland’s Christoph Sauser and New Zealand’s Sam Gaze racing as
With wins at both his 2017 races so far, Sauser is clearly back to peak form,
while Gaze, the Under-23 XCO world champion, will be a year wiser and stronger
and as hungry as Sauser for a Tankwa Trek victory.
Topeak-Ergon will be fielding both their teams, the first comprising 2015 Marathon
World Champion, Alban Lakata of Austria and 2014 Cape Epic winner, Kristian
Hynek of the Czech Republic and the second made up of South Africa’s Erik
Kleinhans and American Jeremiah Bishop. It’s no secret that their primary goal
for 2017 is to win the Cape Epic and they’ll be using the Tankwa Trek as a key
part of the their preparation.
Quite possibly the dark-horse team is the Goldwurst Power BMC duo of Lukas
Flückiger and Nicola Rohrbach. Flückiger won the 2016 Swiss Epic and is
currently ranked 19th in the world, while Rohrbach won last month’s
Snow Bike Festival and finished second overall at last year’s Cape Epic.
Leading the South African challenge are Team NAD’s Nico Bell and Gawie
Combrinck. They were fourth last year at their first attempt and will know what
to expect this time around as they challenge for the podium. Another strong
South African team is the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger.
Woolcock was third overall last year (with Darren Lill), while Kruger was fifth
at the recent Attakwas, confirming his good form and showing Woolcock that he’s
sure to be a very capable team-mate.
Also expected to feature at the front of the race is the South African/Swiss
pairing of Matt Beers and Konny Looser (Red-E Ryder).
The women’s division is packed with strong teams, all in pursuit of the
generous prize money, UCI rankings points and Cape Epic preparation.
Former Tankwa Trek winner, Ariane Lüthi, the Swiss marathon champion, will be
using the race to get to know her new Cape Epic team-mate, Germany’s Adelheid
Morath. Racing as Team Spur, they will be wary of the Team Meerendal/CBC
pairing of Switzerland’s Esther Süss and Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag. Youngsters,
Candice Lill and Vera Adrian, racing as Team dormakaba will also be daily and
overall podium contenders as they set their sights on tackling their first Cape
Epic next month.
Other strong combinations are the OMX Pro/Ultimate Cycling pair of Mariske
Strauss and Yolande de Villiers and the Garmin/Galileo Risk team of Yolandi du
Toit and Theresa Ralph.
There is certain to be strong interest in the mixed category with a number of
strong combinations. South African marathon champion Robyn de Groot will be
pairing up with her Ascendis Health stablemate, Gert Heyns for what should be a
Mounting what should be a strong podium challenge are the Valencia pair of
Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall, and the Velocity Sport Lab duo of Carmen
Buchacher and Uwe Hochenwarter.
“I’m pretty excited to be doing Tankwa Trek with Gert. Firstly, it’s awesome to
do a race together as the new-look Team Ascendis Health. We don’t have Mixed
racing as a priority for our season as I would like to support the women’s
racing category as much as possible. With Tankwa Trek, however, we thought long
and hard and decided it would be a great way to prep for the Cape Epic next
month,” said De Groot.
“I’m grateful that Gert is willing to help me with my Epic preparation. I can
learn a lot from him for sure and have no doubt it will be worthwhile racing
Tankwa Trek together,” added De Groot.
The total cash purse for the 2017 Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by
Biogen is up by an impressive 60% and sits at R410 000, which includes R80 000
each for the winning men and women’s teams and R10 000 for the first men and
women’s teams each to the summit of the Merino Monster on Day 2.
The UCI Elite teams get daily prize money up to fifth place and up to 10th place overall, while there also is daily podium recognition for Veteran (40-49)
and Masters (50-plus) categories both of which are expected to produce intense
“I rode the Tankwa Trek for the first time last year. It’s very tough race and
I was really impressed with the women that competed. I felt it wasn’t right
that they put in the same effort as the men but had less prize money, so I
spoke to Dryland about us adding value to the women’s category,” said Heimar
Anderson, Managing Director of Anderson Transport, which also does logistics
support for Dryland Event Management.
Because of Anderson Transport’s sponsorship, the Elite women’s prize money is
equal to the men’s, paying down to fifth place on each stage and 10th in the final General Classification.
“We also want to give recognition to the women that don’t race, but whose sons,
brothers, fathers and husbands are given the support that allows us to do races
like the Tankwa Trek. It’s really something that’s not often recognised, but
should be,” added Anderson.
The 2017 Momentum Health Tankwa Trek will be based at Kaleo Guest Farm, with
all three stages starting and finishing at the same venue.
Friday February 11: 89km | 1 990m ascent
Saturday February 12: 87km | 2 200m ascent
Sunday February 13: 89km | 1 250m ascent
The race will be ‘live-tweeted’ from @TankwaTrek account and there will be
daily highlights on SuperSport 8 at 20:00.
For more information, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za