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The Merino Monster, the climb which dominates the Stage 3 route, is unquestionably the premier mountain bike ascent in South Africa. Photo by

The annual Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen is a UCI-graded stage race that offers UCI rankings points for top finishers, exceptional media coverage and generous prize money. Little wonder then that it’s attracted its biggest Elite field yet, with some star international and local racers.

There have been whispers that South Africa’s Candice Lill will team up with Austria’s Mona Mitterwallner for a Cannondale Factory Racing assault on the Absa Cape Epic women’s title this year. The fact that they have entered the Tankwa Trek as teammates this week confirms this is more than just a rumour.

Mitterwallner, currently the world’s fifth-ranked XCO racer, didn’t only come of age in XCO racing last year, winning two UCI XCO World Cup rounds in succession, she also won her second UCI Marathon World Championship title. Silver medallist, Lill, wasn’t far behind and we will see just how formidable they are as teammates over the four Tankwa Trek stages through the Cederberg.

Lill has won the prestigious race three times, so knows the event and its challenges very well. This will be Mitterwallner’s debut at the race, but her high level of skill and exceptional climbing ability should see her right at home.

Other international teams that will challenge for the women’s title include Britain’s Annie Last and Denmark’s Malene Degn on the Lapierre Mavic Unity team, Ukraine’s Yana Belemoina and Estonia’s Janika Loiv (KMC Ridley); the French pairing of Lena Gerault and Margot Moschetti (e-FORT) and Austria’s Claudia Krenn and Switzerland’s Stefanie Zahno (RSP Raid Evolenard by Shifft).

Reigning Cape Epic champion, Vera Looser of Namibia, is also a podium contender and she’s partnered with young South African racer, Danielle Strydom on the Efficient Infiniti Insure team. Stephanie Wohlters and Ila Gray are the Efficient Infiniti Insure’s second team.

Other South African pairings sure to be mixing at the front of the race include Sarah Hill and Hailey Smith (#SheUntamed / Complete Cyclist / Bell Equipment), Karla Stumpf and Kelsey van Schoor (Pirtek Cube) and Haley Preen and Frances Janse van Rensburg. Mauritian ace, Arielle Halbwachs, has partnered with veteran South African, Yolande de Villiers, adding further depth to the 19-team UCI teams’ field, the largest ever for Tankwa Trek.

After finishing first and second respectively at Attakwas Extreme last month, Toyota Specialized’s Alex Miller and Matt Beers are the favourites to claim the men’s race win. But with plenty of depth in the UCI Men’s field, which comprises 27 teams – also a record number – they will need to be vigilant and hope for no bad luck.

The teams likely to put up the biggest challenge include the Austrian/Swiss Bulls Heroes pairing of Leon Kaiser and Urs Huber, the German duo of Simon Schneller and Axel Roudil-Cortinat (Bulls Mavericks) and the Swiss/Belgian combo of Konny Looser and Frans Claes.

Also sure to be putting Beers and Miller under pressure are 2023 winner, Tristan Nortje and Marc Pritzen (Honeycomb A), the Imbuko ProCycling pair of Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha, Pyga Euro Steel’s Jaeden Terlouw and Pieter du Toit and the Insect Science combo of Arno du Toit and Keegan Bontekoning.

“We’re very pleased with this Elite field. It’s a solid combination of international racers and local racers, but what’s most exciting is that there are number of teams of young South African racers who have come through the Cross-country racing system. These will be the future stars of marathon and stage-racing and it’s good that they are able to gain experience against a strong field on a world-class route,” said Carel Herholdt, of Dryland Event Management, the organising company.

“We have also never had so much depth in the Elite women’s field at Tankwa Trek and that’s also worth celebrating. Women’s mountain biking is definitely growing but to see increased numbers at a tough race like Tankwa Trek is very encouraging,” added Herholdt.

The 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen starts on Thursday 8 February. The four stages start and finish at Kaleo Guest Farm and take the racers on a variety of purpose-built routes, much of which are stimulating singletrack through the dramatic rock formations of the Koue Bokkeveld region of the Cederberg Mountain Range.

Tankwa Trek 2024 UCI Start List Women

Tankwa Trek 2024 UCI Start List Men

Follow these social media accounts for racing updates from Thursday, 8 February 2024:



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