Former champion Brandon Stewart expects his last race of the season to go down to the wire as he bids to recapture his title at the Mondi Herald Addo Mountain Bike Challenge just outside Port Elizabeth on Sunday, October 31.
Two years ago Stewart, riding for DCM, outsprinted MTN-Energade’s Kevin Evans to claim the 85km Extreme Challenge – the feature race – and he believes this time will be no different.
“When we last met at the Mondi, I pipped him on the line and, knowing Kevin, he would probably want to settle the score,” said the 29-year-old from Pietermaritzburg who finished sixth in the six-day DCM Cape Pioneer Trek (with team-mate Jacques Janse van Rensburg) this past weekend.
Stewart was unable to defend his title in 2009 due to his season finishing earlier, but was able to extend his racing programme through the Pioneer this year.
“The Mondi is a really nice event and I always try to support races in the Eastern Cape. The prize-money is also good, which is the sort of thing that attracts pro riders.”
Stewart said the tough new course – which features more single track and steeper climbs with technical descents – will suit his style of riding. “I enjoy technical routes, especially when I have good form.”
Having just come off two stage races and nine days of continuous racing, Stewart hoped that he would be close to his best after a short rest this week.
He said his tactics would be to toughen up the race from the start in order to reduce the front group and then settle into a comfortable rhythm. “It is not that long so one can afford to race from early on.”
Stewart said the relatively flat closing stretch through the Addo Elephant National Park increased the probability of a sprint. “At least it should be exciting for the spectators.”
Evans, who won the final stage and placed second overall in the Pioneer, will be gunning for his first victory at the Mondi after losing out to Garmin-adidas’ Philip Buys in another sprint last year.
Race director Shane Bradfield said registration day (Saturday) would be treated as an “event” of its own. A 10km two-man time-trial in and around the Addo Polo Club is one of the fun additions.
“The ten top seeded riders will have mystery partners drawn and the winners are determined through a handicap system that takes age and weight into account.”
A guided game ride in the Intsomi Game Reserve – which hosts part of the race route – is another innovation. “The goal is game-viewing from a bicycle, which is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Bradfield.
The Currie Cup final will be screened in the beer tent from 5pm and braai fires will be available afterwards.
There are camping facilities at the race village for those wanting to stay over on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.
A secure and adult-supervised kiddies’ play park – complete with jumping castles, slides and other activities – will keep youngsters occupied.
Riders can enter the 85km Extreme Challenge (R180), the 60km Herald Challenge (R120) and the 30km Capespan Schools’ Challenge & Family Fun Ride (R60). A 5km Kiddies’ Challenge and 1km Toddlers’ Dash (both R30) complete the offering.
Late entries will be accepted at registration from noon to 8pm on Saturday and from 5am to 6.45am on Sunday.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
The Mondi Herald Addo Mountain Bike Challenge