The 2018 mountain biking season gets underway in a few short days, on the 20th of January, at the traditional season opener: the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. The one hundred and twenty one kilometre ultra-marathon – from Chandelier, near Oudtshoorn, to Pine Creek, in Great Brak River – has once again attracted a field of world-class elite riders.
With UCI points towards the world marathon series title up for grabs, as well as R25 000 for the first male and female rider across the line there are enough reasons for elite riders to make the trip to the Klein Karoo for the Attakwas Extreme as a stand-alone event. That being said, the event has become an essential test of the effectiveness of riders’ off-season training ahead of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen and the Absa Cape Epic.
The elite men’s field has a distinctly international feel to it with 2016 joint champions, and Team Bulls teammates, Karl Platt and Tim Böhme leading the line-up. On the two previous occasions when the Bulls have sent more than one rider to the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, they have dominated the top steps of the podium. The German bike brand’s riders were joint first in 2016, while in 2014 Karl Platt finished second behind his stage race partner, Urs Huber, when Huber shattered the course record.
Huber’s record of four hours, forty seven minutes and forty six seconds was two minutes faster than the 2017 winning time and in order for a record breaking attempt to be made this year the weather and racing conditions have to be perfect from the outset.
The Germans, Platt and Böhme, will be joined by the dark horse French contender: Antonin Marecaille. Marecaille is a marathon specialist and raced to second position in the French XCM Championships in 2017, though just how his European pedigree with convert to African racing results on his first racing visit to the continent remains to be seen.
Heading up the local challenge are the PYGA EuroSteel duo, of Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys. The pair were the most successful South African stage racing combination in 2017 and will be looking to continue their run of great results into the new year. Beukes also has an Attakwas Extreme race win on his palmarès. In fact his victory in 2012 was the last by a South African man in the event.
Joining Beukes and Buys in the bid to become the first local winner in six years are Erik Kleinhans, Gert Heyns and the young guns Dylan Rebello and Marco Joubert. Kleinhans needs no reminding of what it takes to complete the Attakwas Extreme, having earned his status as a Ratel – a title earned upon the completion of one’s fifth Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. Likewise Heyns has ample Attakwas Extreme experience and has excelled at single day racing throughout his career. Rebello meanwhile has just a solitary Attakwas Extreme finish to his name while his Imbuko Wines teammate, Joubert, will be taking on his first Hell of the South.
In the UCI women’s field the Swiss national, but South African resident, Ariane Lüthi will be looking to return to winning ways at an event she has won on five previous occasions. The Team Spur rider struggled to reach the personal heights of 2015/2016 last year but looks to be getting back to her best, and with unquestionable winning pedigree and the Attakwas Extreme knowhow she will take some beating.
Lüthi’s main rivals are set to be Jennie Stenerhag, Robyn de Groot, Sabine Spitz, Carmen Buchacher, Amy McDougall and Candice Lill. Stenerhag, riding in the colours of Cape Brewing Co, dominated women’s stage racing in 2017; winning each of the stage races she entered including the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, the Absa Cape Epic, the Perskindol Swiss Epic and FNB Wines2Whales. Her former stage racing partner, De Groot had a difficult season last year as she battled a lingering injury – but the Ascendis Health rider is a previous Attakwas Extreme winner and as a Southern Cape resident trains on the notoriously tough rolling roads towards Great Brak River regularly.
De Groot’s current stage race teammate, Spitz, will be taking on her first Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. The German veteran is one of the most successful mountain bikers in the history of the young sport and will be fired up to add the Attakwas Extreme to her exceptionally impressive palmarès.
Buchacher’s power and formidable resolve position her as another likely challenger; while McDougall’s superb technical skills could see her establish an unassailable lead in the rugged Attakwaskloof section if the women’s race unfolds favourably to her strengths. Lill meanwhile will be starting her first Attakwas Extreme, and is as such somewhat of an unknown across the distance. That said she finished 2017 in the undeniable form of her career thus far and has set herself lofty goals for the 2018 season. A victory at the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen will get the year off to the best possible start for the dormakaba rider.
For more information, including the full start list for the 2018 Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, please visit www.atta.co.za.