Defending champion Pieter Seyffert will renew his partnership with long-time friend Hanco Kachelhoffer when the Liberty TransCape MTB Encounter starts in Knysna on Sunday.
The Pretoria-based rider won the seven-stage mountain bike race with Travis Walker last year and while he and Kachelhoffer have entered the UCI elite category, Seyffert admitted picking up a second title would be a tough task.
He identified HB Kruger and Stuart Marais as the likely riders to beat, while a number of overseas professionals have also entered the event, which is supported by STANLIB and Volvo Cars.
These include Japanese rider Yuki Ikeda, who will team up with South African ace Grant Usher, and Norwegian pros Eirik Fiskvik and Thomas Engelsgjerd.
Seyffert said he and Kachelhoffer, riding for Ellsworth-ASG, would act as the back-up team to Kruger and Seyffert, who were representing the same brand.
Nonetheless, as he contemplates his last year of competitive cycling, he added he would be aiming to end on a high note.
“It would definitely be good to at least win one or two races before I call it quits. But for the TransCape I would like to end in the top five.
“That would be a great result for us as our main focus will be acting as the support team for HB and Stuart.”
Starting in Knysna on Sunday, the 614km race will see riders tackle the seven-stage mountain bike race through the Western Cape, finishing in Franschhoek on February 10.
Kruger and Marais will be riding together for the first time, but are positive about gelling as a team.
“We have not ridden together before, although I have raced against him a few times,” said Kruger. “Stuart is a talented rider and is motivated, so that gives me a good feeling about things.”
He said they would definitely be aiming for the top podium spot.
“Any stage wins will be a bonus, but we are looking to finish on top. The main thing is stay upright, not suffer too many mechanicals and take the opportunities when they arise.”