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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Attakwas Extreme: The 2023 MTB Season Starts Here

The traditional mountain biking season opener, the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, will once again feature a stellar elite field. Headlined by the record holder, Wessel Botha, and the 2020 winner, Matt Beers, the men’s race is sure to be fiercely contested. The women’s race is likely to be a battle between the challengers and the queen of the Attakwaskloof, Yolande de Villiers, who has won four titles and is closing in on Ariane Lüthi’s record of six victories.

In 2022 searing heat made for an exceptionally challenging edition. The August Atta, in 2021, and the 2020 race were both cool and wet which perhaps lulled regular riders into a false sense of security. While the most recent race reinforced the event’s reputation as South Africa’s toughest one-day mountain bike race. Anyone who can survive or even thrive during the Hell of the South is well poised for a strong season.

For the elite racers and the competitive amateurs, the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, represents the first goal of the year. A yard-stick against which to measure the success of their pre-season training. “Atta is always a challenge!” Marco Joubert, of Imbuko {type}DEV reiterated. “It’s the first race of the year, it’s often hot, and it’s the first test of your training. You know you should start conservatively and build into the race. But you’re also so excited to be back and racing that you can’t help yourself but go out hard…”

In the elite women’s race the favourite is no dark horse. De Villiers has won the last two editions and will once again be tough to beat. She will however be up against fellow former South African Marathon Champion, Samantha Sanders. Sanders is by all accounts back to her best after two injury affected seasons.

Sarah Hill will also be looking to step up for competitiveness in the 2023 Hell of the South. She finished second to De Villiers last time out, but was 38 minutes behind the winner. Reducing that gap rather than an outright challenge to Sanders and the Queen of the Attakwaskloof would represent a stellar showing from the Johannesburg based rider.

Danielle Strydom and Karla Stumpf will be making their debuts, pitting youthful exuberance against the ageless challenge of the race from the Klein Karoo to Groot Brak River. The Imbuko {type}DEV pairing will be racing solo here, but could still be testing their compatibility as a stage racing partnership for later in the season. At the other end of the experience scale, Theresa Ralph returns to the event for the first time since 2017. Her proven endurance and ability to up the tempo as the race distance increases could see Ralph surge through the field in the final 60 kilometres, of the 121 kilometre course, picking off fading rivals.

Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius would likely be satisfied with a repeat of her 2022 fourth position, though she will do well to replicate that result with the increased depth of the 2023 field. Then there are a number of women who will be resuming their battle from the 2022 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Robyn Williams came out on top there, alongside Ila Stow who is not racing in January. Williams will be up against Tarryn Povey, Kylie Hanekom and Nicola Freitas in a resumption of the Working Heroines showdown. Joining this fiercely contested fight are Nicola Walker, Tracey Campbell and Sarita Louw.

To watch the battles for the first bragging rights and titles of the 2023 season unfold follow @attakwas on Twitter. Regular updates will also be posted to the @attakwasmtb Instagram and Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, Facebook stories. Highlights videos and more photos will be posted on the race’s Facebook and Instagram handles post-event. For more information, please visit

All images by Jacques Grobler for



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