As South Africa gears down for the annual summer holidays the country’s mountain bikers ramp up their training ahead of the infamously tough Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. Taking place on Saturday the 20th of January 2018 the Attakwas Extreme is the traditional season opener and is bound to test the legs of each of the 1 200 expected participants.

Challenging riders to a 121 kilometre long route, which includes an energy sapping 2 900 meters of vertical elevation gain, the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, has earned the title: “The Hell of the South.” Starting in the sweltering heat of the Klein Karoo and traversing the imposing barrier that is the Outeniqua Mountains, via the fabled Attakwaskloof, before taking on the torturously undulating roads through the southern foothills of the mountains towards the finish line, near the coast at Great Brak River.

Five times Attakwas Extreme winner and former women’s course record holder Ariane Lüthi will once again be starting her season, which also includes the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, at the event next year. With seven Attakwas finishes on her palmarès Lüthi has a strong affinity for the event: “The Attakwas isn’t called The Hell of The South for nothing. It’s rough and it’s a proper challenge. At the finish line your body feels like you’ve gone through hell – bruised from rocks flicking up, scratched from the thorn bushes, dehydrated and burned from the unforgiving African sun, and completely rattled from those long kilometres through the rough Karoo. As hard as it is to conquer it, the Attakwas race gives a unique opportunity to ride through this beautiful valley” she reflected.

Starting in the arid Klein Karoo, traversing the rugged Attakwaskloof and finishing with the unforgiving rolling road through the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, even five time Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, champion Ariane Lüthi approaches the event with caution. Photo by Ewald Sadie.

When asked how she approaches the challenge of the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, Lüthi had the following to say: “I kind of split the race into the first 80 kilometres through the rough Attakwaskloof and the last 40 kilometres of open gravel road. The first part I try to save as much energy as possible by positioning myself well in the peloton and telling myself to be attentive to the attacks of my competition. I try to prepare myself for the mental battle between the competitors so I do not get negative if I have to let go of a wheel but keep on fighting whatever the situation is. The last kilometres are mentally even more difficult because we mostly ride into a headwind, the body feels so tired and there is not much other to think about than just ‘vasbyt’. For those last 40 kilometres I have some encouraging phrases ready in my head, like ‘attitude is gratitude’ or ‘keep pushing’ which I repeat over and over again to get the best out of me. I’ve also taken a mental note of the two last climbs at 105 and 110 kilometres. The race might be decided on one of those climbs and I try to prepare myself to suffer like crazy on those two crucial parts of the route. Lastly, I try to picture the very last kilometres for in case the race comes down to that and plan how I could get the better of my competition there.”

For the less competitive riders the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, is all about reaching personal objectives. Be they in the shape of simply finishing or a particular time. What remains key, for all riders, though is the appropriate training in December and early January. Putting in the long hours in the saddle and working on your core strength are musts for success at the Attakwas. Keep in mind the first 65 kilometres of the route are particularly rugged; so hours on the road bike on asphalt or sessions on the indoor trainer, though beneficial, will not match kilometres upon kilometres of training on your mountain biking in rough terrain.

Remember to hydrate well and regularly during the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. Photo by Ewald Sadie.

With an eleven hour cut-off time and given that the average rider spends around eight hours on route nutrition is of vital importance at the Attakwas. With Dryland Event Management’s famously well-stocked water points dotting the route, every 25 kilometres or so, your race day nutrition and hydration needs will be taken care of by Biogen.

Warren Williams, Biogen’s Sponsorship and Events Manager (and an avid mountain biker himself), suggests the following approach to ultra-endurance nutrition for the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen: “Attakwas is known as an extremely tough mountain bike race, the terrain as tough as nails, the route is technical and with adverse weather conditions reaching a potentially high of 40 degrees, we strongly recommend for all riders taking on this race to hydrate as much as possible, especially those who expect to be out there longer than five-six hours. As a general rule and nutrition strategy, your ‘pre-race pack’ should be to plan your ride according to the distance between each water point.”

“Every water point is fully stocked up on our Perform-X range, where we make products such as Enduro Energy gels, Energy Oats bars, Carbogen and Cramp Care available to all riders. Due to the heat and technicalities of this specific race I would suggest consuming one energy gel every 30-45minutes (depending on the nature of the climbs and how your body feels) and adding at least a bite size of a bar or two to your back pocket for each section of the route” he continued.

“Best of luck to all riders taking part in this prestigious event, we sincerely look forward to seeing you there” Williams concluded.

Putting in the long and lonely December training miles will stand you in good stead come the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, on 20 January 2018. Photo by Ewald Sadie.

It is also important to acclimatise to the products you are likely to use on race day, so make use of your December/January training rides to get your body accustomed to Biogen’s product range.

There are limited entries to the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, still available online. While for younger riders, and those not yet up to the full challenge the Spur Attakwas Mini offers a 52 kilometre long route, starting and finishing at the Pine Creek Resort, Great Brak, which is the perfect introduction to the Attakwas Extreme experience. For more information and online entries please visit