The 2018 Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, boasts the event’s largest ever start list – with 1 400 intrepid riders signed up to take on the Hell of the South on the 20th of January. 11 of those riders have completed 10 or more traverses of the Attakwaskloof, while 511 individuals are signed up to take on their first Attakwas Extreme.
Having staged 11 previous editions Dryland Event Management have witnessed the maturation of the South African mountain biking community, as every year more riders consider themselves up to the task of riding 121 kilometres – through the rugged Klein Karoo, over the imposing Outeniqua Mountains and along the brutally undulating foothills of said mountains – from Chandelier Game Farm to Pine Creek Resort.
For the first edition, in 2007, just 161 pioneering riders completed the imposing route. Keep in mind, if you are riding the Attakwas Extreme in 2018, that these riders were on 26 inch wheels and predominantly on hard tail bikes… The conditions might not have changed but the advancement in mountain bike technology has definitely made completing the Attakwas Extreme more achievable, though still challenging, as 11 times finisher Maartin van Rensburg explained
“We tackled the first Attakwas on 9-speed, v-brake, hard tails not knowing if we would be able to ride 130 kilometres in one day! Finishing the first Attakwas Extreme moved my boundaries and today I know that the mind is your biggest enemy. Your biggest failure is if you do not try. Our modern 12-speed soft tails make it easier on the body, but the Attakwas remains a formidable challenge. That said; I must be a sucker for punishment because the Atta will always stay my favourite fun-ride of the year.”
As the 12th edition rapidly approaches there are 9 riders set to take on their 12th Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. There are also 11 riders set to join the ten times finishers club and a potential 71 new Ratels – as the five time finishers are known. The current group of riders to have completed all 11 events, to date, and who are entered for 2018 are: Noel Whitehead, Richard Muller, Ischen Stopforth, Henry Swart, Corne Swart, CD, du Toit, Paul Micklewood, Ludwig Swanepoel and van Rensburg. While the 10 time finishers entered for this year are: Robert du Preez and Nico van Zyl. The riders seeking to achieve Ratel status in 2018 include Jennie Stenerhag, Richard Scott, Malcolm Isaacs, Max Menzies and, somewhat surprisingly given she completed the inaugural event all those years ago, Yolande de Villiers.
Among the 511 first timers there are quite a few experienced and even elite South African mountain bikers, like Candice Lill, Nicky Giliomee and Marco Joubert. On the other side of the spectrum; Women’s Health editor Amy Hopkins is relatively new to mountain biking, having only taken up the sport in April 2017. Hopkins dove head first into mountain biking and is taking on the challenge of riding both the Attakwas Extreme and the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen in 2018. Explaining her reasons for committing to such intimidating events so early on she said
“People say I’m crazy! And they said that before I did my first stage race only six months into mountain biking.”
“But I love the sport and I love a real challenge” Hopkins enthused. “I know it’s going to be tough, but it’s amazing what your body is capable of and each time you succeed in completing something that scares you, your strength and confidence growths. I want to inspire and encourage other women to experience the camaraderie and excitement that participating in a race brings. Also, it’s the best way to see rugged terrain that you would not otherwise have a chance to explore, with water points and support along the way!”
With the clock ticking down rapidly to the start of the Attakwas Extreme the time for physical preparation has expired – but the opportunity for mental preparation remains. Riders nervous about undertaking the Attakwas Extreme challenge are encouraged to read the #AttakwasAdvice article on the event website, www.atta.co.za/attakwas-advice. The article contains all the route, nutrition and pacing advice riders will need to complete the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen.
Mountain biking fans will be able to follow the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, action as it unfolds on the event’s Facebook and Twitter handles, as well as by following @drylandza on Instagram.