Last year’s runner-up Gert Heyns will be looking to move onto the top step of the podium for the 80km Extreme mountain bike challenge at The Herald VW Cycle Tour on Saturday.
Heyns, who is the current South African U23 cross-country champion, is raring to go on the testing Addo route, which takes riders through the national XCO course at Hayterdale Trails and into the Zuurberg Mountains.
“The Herald is an exciting race because the first and last 20 kilometres are mostly flat and lend themselves to some tactical racing,” said Heyns, who rides in the colours of the UCI-registered Scott Factory Racing team.
“The middle section offers some of the best trails in the country, where the technically savvy rider can pull big gaps on the rest, so racing strategy plays a big part.”
Last year, Heyns and James Reid put the hammer down on the Hayterdale section and rode away from the rest of the field.
Then Reid, who will miss out his title defence due to overseas racing commitments, got away in the closing kilometres and soloed to victory at the Addo Polo Club.
“With most of the climbs and technical single-track in the Hayterdale section, it will most probably split into a very select group again,” said Heyns.
The 21-year-old said he and teammate Matthys Beukes, with whom he won the African jersey category at last year’s Cape Epic, would work together where possible.
“Matthys will definitely be the biggest challenger for the win. Having him in the race won’t change my racing strategy much but we will help each other where we can.”
He said other major contenders would be riders like PSG-Giant’s Jurgens Uys, who won the 2014 Pennypinchers MTB Series, and Kargo-Pro’s three-pronged attack of Brendon Davids, Alan Hatherly and William Mokgopo.
George resident Heyns appears to be in good early season form after taking third place in the gruelling 121km Attakwas ultra marathon earlier this month.
“It’s always nice to do well in the first race of the year as it shows you are on the right track with your training for the rest of the season,” he said.
“I think that the Attakwas and Herald both fit well into my preparation for the races to come. With Attakwas being an ultra distance race, I’m actually looking forward to the shorter classic marathon at Addo.”
While wearing the national champion’s jersey did give him added confidence going into Saturday’s race, he said the strongest rider on the day would probably take the win.
Heyns added that he and Beukes would also be competing in the 106km Classic in Port Elizabeth the following day in a bid to win the Ultimate Quest title, which rewards the best cyclist on aggregate across both the road and mountain bike events.
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