Defending Champions Face Stern Test at 2022 Hell of the South
The Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, is set to take place on Saturday, 15 January 2022. The 16th edition of the race will see South Africa’s top mountain bikers go head-to-head in a battle to raise a stone from the Attakwakloof above their heads. In so doing they will get their 2022 seasons off to the best possible starts.
The 121-kilometre race from Oudtshoorn to Pine Creek Resort, in Great Brak River, takes in 2 900-metres of climbing as it crosses four distinct biomes. Starting in the arid Klein Karoo the terrain under-wheel will be loose and rocky. The race then ascends into the high peaks of the Outeniqua Mountains and follows the ancient elephant paths and traders’ trails through the Attakwaskloof. On the southern side of the mountains indigenous and plantation forests await, as do roads which have euphemistically been dubbed, ‘rolling’. Finally, in the final kilometres, the route descends towards the ocean and a cool sea breeze will likely greet riders as they make their way to Pine Creek. If only that cooling breeze was not a headwind, it would be pleasant…
For amateurs and professional athletes alike, completing the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, is a litmus test of one’s festive season training. Neglected base miles will come back to haunt the ill-prepared. Fortunately, it has been only five months since the 2021 edition of the race. Everyone should thus know exactly what they are in for.
In the women’s race defending champion, Yolande de Villers will be tough to beat. The Oudtshoorn resident and reigning South African marathon champion thrives in hot conditions. Which is ominous for her rivals as the mercury is predicted to hit 35 degrees Celsius in Oudtshoorn on Saturday. “The Hell of the South is back to its original date as the season opener and I couldn’t be more excited,” De Villiers enthused. “I’m so grateful that events are back and that we can all enjoy what we love most – racing – once more. The women’s field is bigger and deeper than it was last year, so I’m expecting fierce competition this weekend.”
“The Southern Cape has had a lot of rain in the last few months,” she warned. “All the trails have been damaged. There are lots more loose, rocky, sections than ever before. Along with rugged and corrugated sections along the route. Avoiding damaging your bike could be one of the biggest challenges of this year’s race.”
De Villiers will be lining up against the multiple South African cross-country champion Mariske Strauss, Sarah Hill and Yolandi Swanepoel. Former South African marathon champion Samantha Sanders will be making her long-awaited return to racing, after an injury disrupted 2021, at the 2022 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. While Amy Wakefield, formerly McDougall, will be racing for the first time since her late-December wedding. Catherine Colyn, Katie Lennard, Mandi Augustyn, Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius, Leone Verster, Kristina Madonna and the very talented Kelsey Van Schoor make up a 14-rider strong elite women’s field.
Along with the hot temperatures predicted for the Klein Karoo there is a light headwind and 22 degrees expected for the late afternoon. It will certainly be anything but easy. Racing gets underway at 06:30 from the Oudtshoorn Civic Centre, with provincial traffic enforced neutral zone to Chandelier Game Reserve. Mountain biking fans can follow the action on the event’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram handles at: Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, @attakwas and @attakwasmtb. For more information, please visit www.atta.co.za.