Cape Town - The 2018 mountain biking season gets underway in a few short
days, on January 20, at the traditional season opener: the Momentum
Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen.
The 121km ultra-marathon - from Chandelier, near Oudtshoorn, to Pine Creek, in
Great Brak River - has once again attracted a field of world-class elite
With UCI points towards the world marathon series title up
for grabs, as well as R25 000 for the first male and female rider across
the line there are enough reasons for elite riders to make the trip to the
Klein Karoo for the Attakwas Extreme as a stand-alone event. That being said,
the event has become an essential test of the effectiveness of riders’
off-season training ahead of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, and the Absa Cape Epic.
The elite men’s field has a distinctly international feel to
it with 2016 joint champions, and Team Bulls team-mates, Karl Platt and Tim
Böhme leading the line-up. On the two previous occasions when the Bulls have
sent more than one rider to the Attakwas Extreme, they have dominated the top steps of the podium. The German bike
brand’s riders were joint first in 2016, while in 2014 Platt finished
second behind his stage race partner, Urs Huber, when Huber shattered the
Huber’s record of 4 hours, 47 minutes and 46 seconds was two minutes faster than the 2017 winning time and in order for
a record breaking attempt to be made this year the weather and racing
conditions have to be perfect from the outset.
The Germans, Platt and Böhme, will be joined by the dark
horse French contender: Antonin Marecaille. Marecaille is a marathon specialist
and raced to second position in the French XCM Championships in 2017, though
just how his European pedigree with convert to African racing results on his
first racing visit to the continent remains to be seen.
Heading up the local challenge are the PYGA EuroSteel duo,
of Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys. The pair were the most successful South
African stage racing combination in 2017 and will be looking to continue their
run of great results into the new year. Beukes also has an Attakwas Extreme
race win on his palmarès. In fact his victory in 2012 was the last by a South
African man in the event.
Joining Beukes and Buys in the bid to become the first local
winner in six years are Erik Kleinhans, Gert Heyns and the young guns Dylan
Rebello and Marco Joubert. Kleinhans needs no reminding of what it takes to
complete the Attakwas Extreme, having earned his status as a Ratel - a title
earned upon the completion of one’s fifth Attakwas Extreme. Likewise Heyns has ample Attakwas Extreme experience and has
excelled at single day racing throughout his career. Rebello meanwhile has just
a solitary Attakwas Extreme finish to his name while his Imbuko Wines team-mate,
Joubert, will be taking on his first Hell of the South.
In the UCI women’s field the Swiss national, but South
African resident, Ariane Lüthi will be looking to return to winning ways at an
event she has won on five previous occasions. The Team Spur rider struggled to
reach the personal heights of 2015/16 last year but looks to be getting back
to her best, and with unquestionable winning pedigree and the Attakwas Extreme
knowhow she will take some beating.
Lüthi’s main rivals are set to be Jennie Stenerhag, Robyn de
Groot, Sabine Spitz, Carmen Buchacher, Amy McDougall and Candice Lill. Stenerhag,
riding in the colours of Cape Brewing Co, dominated women’s stage racing in
2017; winning each of the stage races she entered including the Tankwa Trek, the Absa Cape Epic, the Perskindol Swiss Epic
and Wines2Whales. Her former stage racing partner, De Groot had a difficult
season last year as she battled a lingering injury - but the Ascendis Health
rider is a previous Attakwas Extreme winner and as a Southern Cape resident
trains on the notoriously tough rolling roads towards Great Brak River
De Groot’s current stage race team-mate, Spitz, will be
taking on her first Attakwas Extreme. The
German veteran is one of the most successful mountain bikers in the history of
the young sport and will be fired up to add the Attakwas Extreme to her
exceptionally impressive palmarès.
Buchacher’s power and formidable resolve position her as another
likely challenger; while McDougall’s superb technical skills could see her
establish an unassailable lead in the rugged Attakwaskloof section if the women’s
race unfolds favourably to her strengths. Lill meanwhile will be starting her
first Attakwas Extreme, and is as such somewhat of an unknown across the
distance. That said she finished 2017 in the undeniable form of her career thus
far and has set herself lofty goals for the 2018 season. A victory at the Attakwas Extreme will get the year off to the best
possible start for the dormakaba rider.
For more information, including the full start list for the
2018 Attakwas Extreme, visit www.atta.co.za