At this time of year, South Africa is the beating heart of endurance mountain biking. Pro riders fly south for training camps, and they roll right into some tough events. From Attakwas through to the Tankwa Trek, this is the start of the season with plenty more to come. The best mountain bikers in the world are about to descend on the Tankwa Karoo, and mountain bike fans will witness it live.
The 2019 Momentum Health Tankwa Trek presented by Biogen takes place from 7-10 February. With the second highest UCI status of any event in Africa and the recent addition of a live streaming component, the stage race is fast becoming a global icon on the mountain biking calendar. As a result, the pedigree that the event has enticed to South African shores in 2019 is noteworthy.
The Tankwa Trek is the first real showdown for the big names in this sport as they throw down the gauntlet for the 2019 season. One of the many story lines that will unfold is the battle between Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion Henrique Avancini, and the 2018 runner up Daniel Geismayr.
Avancini will partner with multiple German Champion Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing), while Geismayr will be paired with the experienced Jochen Kaß (Team Centurion Vaude).
“There are so many new teams and big names and it’s not easy to single out any particular threat, but it will sure make for some good and intense racing,” said Fumic.
Defending champion Alban Lakata is teaming up with Germany’s Karl Platt, 5 time winner of the Cape Epic. The riders will put decades of rivalry aside to make up a powerhouse pairing for Team Bulls for the first time ever.
“Karl is ‘Mister Stage Race’ and I‘m very excited to race with him and learn from him. So yes, it is an absolute honour to be defending last year’s title with my new partner,” commented Lakata on partnering with the legendary Platt.
This formidable team is one of three that Team Bulls have announced they will be sending to the race this year. The immensely powerful German Urs Huber with partner Simon Stiebjahn, as well as young guns Martin Freyand Simon Schneller make up the rest of an incredibly imposing team.
“I’m sure that we will be a team to beat this year. Simon is very motivated after finally being unleashed as a fully-fledged Team Bulls member! He can dig very deep and gives absolutely everything! ” said Huber.
Adding to the list of superstars is a pair of U23 World Champions. South African favourite Alan Hatherly, who made headlines when he was crowned 2018 U23 Cross Country World Champion, has partnered with Samuel Gaze for Team Specialized. The outrageously talented New Zealander made a massive breakthrough in 2018. He was not only crowned Commonwealth Games Champion but also shook the world of mountain biking by defeating the legendary Nino Schurter at the MTB World Cup Race in Stellenbosch.
Another genuine contender for the Tankwa crown is Maxime Marrot (Cannondale Factory Racing 2). The Frenchman had an unbelievable 2018 World Cup season and will ride with 19 year old Cameron Orr from Britain who is rapidly making a name for himself.
A pair of young guns are set to add even more fireworks to the action for Team Denmark. Simon Andreasson and Jonas Lindberg will not be afraid to throw everything they have at the race in an effort to upset the old guard.
South African riders looking to make a name for themselves in the sport have not passed up the opportunity to test themselves against the best the world has to offer on home soil.
High on the list of South African contenders are last year’s third place finishers Team Pyga Euro Steel teammates Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys. The pair will be looking to get the title back into South African hands, and have a strong reputation at Dryland events as local favourites.
Team NAD MTB’s Matt Beers, Gawie Combrinck, Nico Bell and Wessel Botha are other strong South African riders looking to make an early season statement.
More details on the women’s field to come.