Race Preview: The crème de la crème of endurance racing all set for the 2022 Attakwas Extreme

The Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, returns to it’s traditional season-opening slot in the MTB calendar in 2022. Known as The Hell of the South, the race will see the countries’ top endurance riders line up on the 15th of January to test their form.

2022 Attakwas Extreme
The rough surfaces of the region ensure that the race is a war of attrition.

The 2021 South African mountain biking season my have only just concluded, but the attention is already shifting to next year. With the Omicron fear subsiding and an easing of restrictions expected, the 2022 season should be the first in two years to follow the usual rhythm. This means a return of South Africa’s premier one-day race and arguably the toughest one-day UCI accredited race, to its January time slot. Searing heat and dusty, dry, trail conditions contribute to the race’s Hell of the South nom de plume. Alongside the exceptionally challenging 121-kilometre-long route the race also features a shorter 52-kilometre route. The former will begin, in Oudtshoorn, with an 8-kilometre neutral zone before the official start at Chandelier Game Lodge. While the latter will begin and finish at the traditional Hell of the South finish line, in Pine Creek Resort, Great Brak River.

2022 Attakwas Extreme
Yolande de Villiers will contest the 2022 race as the defending champion and the South African marathon champion.

Having won the previous edition of the race and set a new course record, all eyes will be on Wessel Botha when he lines up for his new team. Then racing for {type}DEV Nanotime, Botha’s time was 4 hours, 46 minutes and 22 seconds; which was 1 minute and 34 seconds faster than the previous course record, set by Urs Huber in 2014. Given that two riders, Alex Miller and Marco Joubert, went to the line with Botha it is fair to assume that the cooler conditions and firmer terrain under-wheel, in August, contributed to the faster times.

2022 Attakwas Extreme
The climb to the King and Queen of the Mountain hotspot is often among the race’s decisive moments.

In summer the Klein Karoo heat will make for a war of attrition through the first half of the route. As any ‘Ratel’ (riders who have completed five or more editions of the race) can attest, the Klein Karoo and Attakwaskloof sections are particularly challenging. The rough terrain is a true test of man, woman and machine, with punctures and mechanicals often playing their part in determining the overall victors. On the southern side of the Outeniqua Mountains, after the section through the remote Attakwaskloof, the terrain smooths but the racing does not get any easier. Four significant climbs draw every last ounce of energy from exhausted legs and test every rider’s adherence to their summer training programmes. If they can conquer the Attakwas they are ready for the rigors of the 2022 season.

2022 Attakwas Extreme
The 2021 men’s podium finishers will return to duke it out once more at the 2022 event.

As befitting the season opener, the race is set to attract South Africa’s top mountain biking talent, for the sixteenth edition. Alongside the defending champion, Botha, the rest of the 2021 men’s podium returns for another crack at the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. Miller and Joubert will line up against Matthew Keyser, CP van Wyk, Herman Fourie, Brendan van Eeden and Jan Withaar. PYGA Euro Steel have achieved recent success in the event, with George’s Matthys Beukes winning both the 2018 and 2019 editions. In 2022 he will be joined by teammates Gert Heyns, Philip Buys and Pieter du Toit. Wian van den Berg, Jaco Venter, Ben Swanepoel, Christiaan Janse van Rensburg and Daniel van der Walt will also be riders to watch. While Imbuko Giant will have strength in numbers and depth thanks to Franko van Zyl, Tristan Nortje, Rudi Koen and Joubert.

The rider everyone will be looking to beat though, including the reigning champion, is the South African marathon champion and 2020 race winner Matthew Beers. In the women’s race, the favourite is also the reigning South African marathon champion. Yolande de Villiers will not only start with the South African flag across her chest, but is also the most recent race winner and a triple champion. Only Ariane Lüthi has won more editions of the Hell of the South than the Oudtshoorn local. In 2022 De Villiers will face off against Sarah Hill, Samantha Sanders, Danielle Strydom, Yolandi Swanepoel and the 20-year-old road racing talent Kelsey Van Schoor. While more elite male and female riders are likely to join the battle for the inaugural race of the season, the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, will provide the 2016 champion Robyn de Groot with the chance to get her year off to a winning start.

2022 Attakwas Extreme
On the southern side of the Outeniqua Mountains the road surfaces improve but a series of brutal climbs ensures a challenging second half of the race.

For elite and non-elite riders alike the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, is the best way to start the mountain biking season. Limited entries are still available but close on the 3rd of January. Thereafter only late and line entries to the shorter event will be available. For more information and online entries visit www.atta.co.za.

| IMAGES: Zoon Cronje & Carli Smith |


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