Cape Town - The 2020 Tankwa Trek represents the first opportunity for mountain biking fans to see the South
African power-team of Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill in action.
in the Koue Bokkeveld region, of the Western Cape, the four-day stage race is
scheduled from February 6-9. It once
again boasts a powerful elite women’s field who are set to face off for the
title, as they do battle over a rugged 288km.
Having spent most of their careers racing against one
another the two former winners of the UCI S1 stage race will team up this year,
as Faces CST.
They will be up against Ghost Factory Racing, Fairtree Rotwild, Devonbosch
Vertice GTR, dormakaba blue and red, the GB Cycling Team and Galileo Risk Infinity. Thus, securing victory will be no easy feat.
Strauss is the defending champion, having won the 2019 race
alongside Jennie Stenerhag. While Lill was one of the 2018
Tankwa Trek winners.
Both are chasing Olympic qualification
and the 120 UCI points which are awarded to the winning riders could prove
decisive in the final reckoning. Especially considering that South Africa’s
chances of qualifying two riders for the games in Tokyo rely in no small part
to outscoring Germany and Great Britain, the pressure is on.
If Lill’s former
partner Adelheid Morath or the former team-mate they both share, Annie Last,
were to finish ahead of them it would represent a major loss of potential
Olympic qualifying points.
Then there is the Tankwa Trek prize money to consider. With R80 000 up for grabs for the winning
team the pay-out is significant. It can be bolstered too by securing the
R10 000 Queen of the Mountain prize for summiting the Merino Monster, on
Stage 3, first. Plus, additionally supplemented by a further R25 000, for the
first South African team on the final women’s general classification.
The South Africans biggest challenge could well come from
the Ghost Factory Racing outfit. Barbara Benko and Anne Terpstra spent two days
in the pink women’s leaders’ jerseys at the 2019 Tankwa Trek. They are formidably skilled over technical terrain, have
the power to trouble all the women in the field and a year on they have more
experience in harsh African conditions too. Terpstra enters the Olympic year
off the back of her best ever year, the Dutch rider won her first UCI Mountain
Bike World Cup in 2019 and finished the season as the top-ranked woman in the
Terpstra and Benko are by no means the only threat to Strauss
and Lill. Stenerhag is, like the Faces CST women, a former winner in the
Bokkeveld. In fact, she has won the title three times, in 2019, 2017 and 2015.
For 2020 she teams up with Germany’s Nadine Rieder for Fairtree Rotwild and the
Swedish/German combination will in all likelihood look to limit their losses on
the first two days before going on the attack on the Merino Monster.
While that tactic may play into the hands of experienced
riders like Stenerhag and Rieder, the GB Cycling Team will have to take another
approach. The Tankwa Trek is Isla Short’s
first stage race on the African continent. The young Brit is partnered by an
experienced campaigner, in Last, but they will still have to utilise their
cross-country skills on the opening two stages and hope to hang on to any lead
they can, potentially build up.
dormakaba meanwhile have the luxury of two squads in the
race. The dormakaba blue team is represented by the potential race winners,
Morath and Robyn de Groot, another former champion. They along with Faces CST
and Ghost Factory Racing are arguably the three co-favourites for the title. In
the shape of dormakaba red and their stable-mates, Amy McDougall and Sabine
Spitz, they have an additional card to play. McDougall and Spitz are not only
on hand to supply a wheel if need be, but they could also provide a handy foil
for Morath and De Groot to attack off, if the opportunity presents itself.
Another former Tankwa Trek winner, is the Swiss star Ariane Lüthi. Lüthi makes her home in South
Africa during the summer months and is no stranger to the mountain bike stage
racing field. Her young partner in team Devonbosch Vertice GTR, Lia Schieverts,
is a German U23 rider and another stage race newcomer. Schieverts has however
spent time in South Africa before, training with the German national team, and
has been building up to the 2020 race in Stellenbosch; so, she will be acclimatised
to the heat.
The final team to watch is the all-South African combination
of Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph. Galileo Risk Infinity’s women are accustomed
to battling it out for local honours with the dormakaba teams. The absence of
Hill and Ralph’s usual rivals could set them free to chase bigger goals. Expect
Ralph to have a steadying influence on the excitable Hill and for the Galileo
Risk Infinity team to do their utmost to be in the South African category shake
up come the final stage of the 2020.
Mountain biking fans can follow the action live; by
following the race’s Twitter handle, @tankwatrek.
The action kicks off with elite rider interviews at registration on the morning
of Thursday, February 6, before the racing starts at 15:00.
For photos and
videos form the race follow @tankwatrek
on Instagram and the Tankwa Trek
All the details of the 2020 Tankwa Trek can be found online at www.tankwatrek.co.za