Howick – Near perfect cool and dry conditions look set to greet participants of the 2014 Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival at the Karkloof Country Club this weekend as thousands gear up for a bumper weekend of mountain biking action, starting on Friday night.
The three day festival, the largest of its kind in South Africa, has plenty to offer all ages and abilities and gets underway on Friday with the 20km Peri Night Race which, together with Saturday’s STIHL Karkloof Enduro, adds great variety to the weekend’s programme.
Sunday’s main day of action commences with the feature race of the festival, the 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon, and will see Trek SA’s Brendon Davids eager to defend the title he claimed last year.
Davids will however face stiff opposition in the form of fellow cross country specialists and Kargo pro MTB team mates Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker while Cannondale Blend’s Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock as well as TIB Insurance’s Andrew Hill will be hoping their ultra-marathon base will serve them well in their top three challenges.
Chasing the pre-race front bunch favourites are likely to be the likes of Quattro’s Tyron Bird, who makes a welcome return to competitive racing after his horrific crash at the recent UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, and Bird’s stage race partner Tyrone White while a[s]g PYcycling’s Alan Hatherly will undoubtedly be a factor in the junior boys’ clash and a top ten hopeful.
The women’s race sees a welcome return to the Karkloof region for Time Freight VELOlife’s Candice Neethling who will be out to reclaim the title she won in 2012.
Neethling will however have the tough task of fending off team mate Bianca Haw and 2013 women’s title winner, USN/Hi-TEC’s Jeannie Dreyer.
Despite the late withdrawal from the race by Sasol Racing’s Ischen Stopforth due to illness, the women’s field still enjoys great depth in 2014 with the likes of Coffeeberry VELOlife’s Natalie Bergstrom, Pure Adventure Wear VELOlife’s neden Cahill as well as Enviroshore’s Brenda Potts all likely to be in the mix.
An injection of youth will also be a factor in the women’s clash with Time Frieght VELOlife team mates Ashleigh Moffatt, Frankie du Toit and Alexandra Mapstone all set to be on the start line come Sunday.
Also set to make an appearance at this year’s festival will be former Sharks and Springbok centre Jeremy Thomson as well as Dusi Duke, seven time Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Martin Dreyer, who will have his work cut out for him as he looks to keep up with his formidable Dischem RMB Change a Life MTB Academy team members.
Title sponsors Sappi, having already offered generous support to the festival financially, will further their backing of the event when they offer all moms in attendance of the festival on Sunday a free massage and pedicure as part of their unique Mother’s Day celebrations.
New routes, many of which traverse the vast Sappi plantations in the region, will also add a fresh feel to this year’s events with the 40km route in particular having received a complete make-over from course designer Hylton Turvey.
As if the festival’s reputation of offering world class trails, breath-taking scenery and professional organization wasn’t enough, this year’s showdown also serves as one of just four qualifying events for the inaugural Rainbow Challenge which will see age group and masters riders go head to head for a coveted rainbow jersey of the marathon MTB discipline at the end of June.
The Rainbow Challenge takes place on a very similar course to that of the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships, which take place just a day later on 29 June, with both international battles set to blaze through the Karkloof region as well.
Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB). More info can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za