Beat Burry Stander (Specialized) and win the MTN Tulbagh ultra-marathon.
Seeing that Stander knows only one way of racing, namely from the front, this is most likely what the race on Saturday (18 February) will boil down to. It is safe to predict that he will attack the first time that the going gets tough.
Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank360Life), Jacques Rossouw (Team Fedgroup-Itec Connect) and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka) will be the riders who will undoubtedly take up Stander’s challenge.
Last year George and Evans rode a tactically brilliant race to take the first and second positions.
Tulbagh will be the only time that Stander will compete in the MTN series.
According to Stander he set himself only two goals for the season.
His first goal will be to defend the Cape Epic title that he won last year with Christoph Sauser from Switzerland as his teammate.
Secondly it is important for him to achieve a good result at the Olympic Games in London. Stander is one of the few South African athletes with a realistic chance of winning a medal at the Games.
He is currently the world’s sixth-best cross-country rider.
In 2009 he won the u.23 cross-country world title and in 2010 he won a bronze medal in the pro-elite world championship.
According to Stander, his preparation has been going well up to now. “I certainly feel stronger and fitter than I did at the same time last year.
“I am doing things slightly differently this time round and that is why Tulbagh will be the only ultra-marathon I will be racing before the Epic.
“It is important for me not to over-race myself during the early part of the season. Therefore I will focus mostly on cross-country races for my preparation.”
Stander plays down expectations that he will win a medal at the Games.
“All I can promise is that I will be at my best at the time of the Games.
“I think I have proven during the past three years that I can hold my own against the best, but in any race a little bit of luck at the right time can make a big difference.
“Last year was proof of this. I was in good form and raced well, but every time there was that one moment when things just did not go my way which led to me losing out on a podium finish.
“That is mountain biking. You have to take the good with the bad.”
Stander said he had the opportunity to race on the Olympic cross-country course last year.
“It is a good course that ought to suit my style of riding, but weather conditions could be the deciding factor during the race.”
Stander tips France’s Julian Absalon (double Olympic champion), Switzerland’s Nino Schurter (a former World Champion) and his Czech teammate, Jaroslav Kulhavy (current world champion) as the riders to beat at the Games.
Wessel van der Walt, MTN’s race director, said they have made a number of changes to the route.
“I can honestly say that this time round the racing will be great fun and also much more exciting.”
The MTN Marathon as well as the Nissan Half Marathon will be taking place on Saturday as well making this a very spectator friendly event.