Seven-time Dusi canoe marathon champion and new Freedom Challenge record-holder Martin Dreyer will be alongside wife Jeannie when she makes her comeback to racing at the three-day FedGroup Berg & Bush in KwaZulu-Natal from October 26.
The Pietermaritzburg-based team, riding in the colours of USN/Hi-Tec, will be one of the fancied pairs in the highly competitive mixed category in their first mountain bike stage race following the birth of their second child five months ago.
Although his wife was not yet back to peak form, Dreyer said they were looking forward to the challenge of competing against a field that included the likes of Justin Porteous and Candice Neethling of Team JoJo and Bridgette Stewart and Brad Stroberg of FedGroup-Itec Connect.
“She’s getting stronger every day. It’s going to be tough riding against those racing snakes but we won’t go down without a fight.”
The adventure racer said running had always been the focus of his training, but his confidence on the bike had increased following his record-shattering five-day victory in the Freedom Challenge in June.
“My riding has improved dramatically, but I still won’t shave my legs. I’m not a specialist mountain biker.”
The Dusi Duke said he had great respect for his younger rivals.
“I know Justin from multisport racing. He’s a good rider; it’s his game. And Candice is an exceptional athlete as well.
“Bridgette has a fantastic pedigree as a downhill racer, while Brad’s got the energy of youth on his side.”
The 43-year-old said he hoped that his experience in endurance sport would give him the edge in the 220km event.
“When conditions get tougher, I like to think it suits me more. If you can deal with it better than your competitors, it allows you to get ahead of the curve.”
Both husband and wife are veterans of the Absa Cape Epic, with Jeannie, 32, having finished second in the mixed category alongside Geddan Ruddock in 2005. She also holds the record for the Otter African Trail Run and has several Xterra wins under her belt.
Dreyer said teamwork would be their strength. “We’re going to test ourselves and make sure we don’t get off our bikes up Spioenkop.”
Although they would be racing hard, Dreyer said it would not be at the expense of enjoying the experience. He completed the FedGroup Berg & Bush Original, a two-day event, as a roving ambassador three years ago.
“I cannot wait to get back onto the course. Farmers like Gary Green put on these incredible races because they’re so in touch with the land and they just have that warm hospitality.
“The whole community gets involved and the vibe is just phenomenal – it’s one of the races you cannot miss.”
The seventh edition of the event continues with the three-stage FedGroup Berg & Bush Great Trek from October 30. Tracing the route of the Descent, it starts at Sterkfontein Dam near Harrismith in the Free State and finishes at Winterton in the Central Drakensberg.
Proceedings are wrapped up with the original two-day race from November 3.
For more information, go to www.bergandbush.co.za, www.facebook.com/ bergandbush or @bergandbush.