Former Dakar Rally champion and this year’s runner-up Giniel de Villiers has signed up for yet another multi-stage endurance test – this time on a mountain bike.
De Villiers, 39, will team up with former international triathlete Bobby Behan to ride the world’s largest fully serviced stage race, the Subaru sani 2c, from May 19 to 21.
The race sees 650 teams trek from Underberg in southern KwaZulu-Natal through the Umkomaas River Valley to the seaside resort town of Scottburgh.
The Volkswagen Motorsport driver said mountain biking formed an important part of his training programme and that he would use the race to “build base fitness”.
According to De Villiers, the stage-racing component in both sports required similar skills. “You’ve got to hold your focus, watch out for obstacles and keep your reaction times sharp.
“In rally driving, when you climb out of the car, you feel as if you’ve ridden a mountain bike race – it is both physically and mentally draining.”
De Villiers said he would be riding the three-day cycle race for pleasure and not to win. “I do my racing in a car – I have fun on a bike.”
He admitted however that there was some friendly rivalry between himself and his Irish team-mate. The two first met in Stellenbosch, where De Villiers lives and Behan used to train for international triathlon competitions.
“Even though we’re riding together on the same team, we always try to beat each other down the single track!”
He said he might one day put Behan to the ultimate test behind the wheel of his VW Racing Touareg 3, “as long as I don’t have to sit next to him!”
De Villiers spends approximately 180 days a year out of the country on promotional tours for his factory racing team. As global sports marketing manager for the Specialized brand, Behan maintains an equally rigorous travelling schedule.
“It is difficult to commit to a race with our schedules and these are often fully subscribed by the time we find a gap,” said De Villiers, who has done the four-day Imana Wild Ride twice.
“The sani2c is by the same organiser (as the Imana Wild Ride) and some of my friends who’ve done it tell me that it’s one of the really awesome races. So we’re taking full advantage of the fact that we’ll both be here for once.”
The duo will ride under the banner of Team Specialized.
De Villiers said he had heard that the race, which was traditionally held in February, had been “a bit wet” but that the new date in the “dry” season would make a difference. “It will definitely make the single track riding a lot more fun.”
The four-time South African touring car champion, who completed his first Dakar Rally in 2003, said he would also be doing smaller motorsport events like the SA Rally Championship in the build-up to next year’s event in South America.
“I’d like to win another Dakar. But in this sport, there are no guarantees. You need to be well prepared but you also need a lot of luck.”
To find out more about the race, visit www.sani2c.co.za, join the Facebook group or follow sani2c_scoop on Twitter.
Dakar Rally star Giniel de Villiers has signed up to ride the three-stage Subaru sani2c mountain bike race through southern KwaZulu-Natal from May 19 to 21. Photo: Volkswagen Motorsport (www.volkswagen-motorsport.com)
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