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Fierce Women’s Line Up for the 2023 Tankwa Trek



The 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, has once again attracted a stellar field of local and international talent. In fact, the race boasts arguably the strongest ever women’s field with the South African defending champions up against fierce competition in their bid to secure a third successive title. Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill thus have their work cut out for them when they toe the start line on Thursday, 9 February, for the four-day UCI stage race.


Strauss and Lill have each won three of the last four editions of the race. The previous two as a team, with Strauss having won the 2019 race alongside Jennie Stenerhag and Lill having claimed the 2018 victory with Helen Grobert. As Rola Toyota Seattle they line-up as the favourites for the elite women’s category.


“I’m super excited to see how the body is going, luckily I have a couple of races before the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen,” Strauss noted. “I’m feeling good and excited to get racing. I obviously had that ‘tiny’ crash mid last year [Strauss fractured her left hip during a cross country race in the Czech Republic in May] and I had some issues towards the end of last year with neglected recap. But now I’ve got on top of that and my body is feeling strong so things are looking good for the 2023 season. So those two races I have before Tankwa will be perfect to rev the engine and get ready for the big showdown.”


“It’s always good to have good competition, in the women’s field in particular we really need it, so the line-up for the race is certainly something to get excited about,” Strauss continued. “That being said, it doesn’t really change our plan for the race. We are still going to go out and do our best. The advantage we hold over the Europeans is that we are used to the heat and we know the terrain. I also just love racing with Candice. It’s always a jol and I’m looking forward to all the fun we will be having on and off the bike.”


Strauss and Lill’s path to victory leads not only through the rugged Koue Bokkeveld and Witzenberg Valley terrain, which they know very well, but also past a number of imposing teams, as the Rola Toyota Seattle rider hinted. The first being the KMC MTB Racing Team combination of Janika Loiv and Yana Belomoina. Loiv is the five-time Estonian XCO champion, while Belomoina has showed remarkable consistency since stepping into elite racing in 2015. The Ukrainian has won four World Championships medals, two European Championship titles and was crowned the UCI World Cup leader three times over.


Along with the Rola Toyota Seattle and KMC MTB Racing Teams there are two squads from Ghost Factory Racing taking on the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen. Scottish champion Isla Short races with Caroline Bohé as Ghost Factory Racing - Flat White. The more experienced combination of Nicole Koller and Anne Terpstra, of Ghost Factory Racing – Cappuccino, are the more likely challengers for the overall victory. Especially given Terpstra’s proven aptitude for South African conditions.


Efficient Insure Infiniti Racing’s Samantha Sanders and Amy Wakefield should also be considered among the top favourites. The pair have a long history of racing together and were reunited by Efficient Insure Infiniti for the 2023 season. Sanders’ form after a lengthy injury layoff has yet to be put to the test. Thus, mountain biking fans have no indication of how seriously they should take her and Wakefield’s push for victory in February.


The Pump for Peace Racing team of Andrea Schöfmann and Faranak Partoazar will be fascinating to watch. Schöfmann is a double national junior champion and Continental U23 champion in the XCO format. Partoazar is Iran’s first international female cyclist and spent much of 2022 being mentored by Ariane Lüthi.


Imbuko {type}DEV’s Danielle Strydom and Karla Stumpf may be older than Schöfmann but they too will be stepping somewhat into the unknown. There can be no doubting the pair’s talent, yet how they will perform both mentally and physically in such hallowed company remains to be seen. Neither Strydom or Stumpf have enjoyed the level of support their Imbuko {type}DEV set-up will be providing them with before though, which could be a deciding factor in their ability to recover between stages and prepare for the race in general.


Sarah Hill and Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius will be looking to challenge the Pump for Peace Racing and Imbuko {type}DEV teams, as well as attempting to upset at least one of the more favoured squads. The #SheUntamed combination raced together for the first time at the back end of 2022 and come to the Koue Bokkeveld, on the back of strong showings at the Hell of the South. Tracey Campbell and Juanita Mackenzie, of the Action Cycles team, as well as Janice Venter and Tarryn Povey will also be coming in hot out of the Attakwaskloof. Though Venter’s Bester Performance Titan Racing teammate, Steph Wohlters, as well as Povey’s Echo PentestSA partner, Kylie Hanekom, missed the season opener.


They – as with the rest of the field – will undoubtedly find the relentless technicality of the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, a different sort of challenge. Primarily because the route provides little to no opportunities for tempo racing; but requires constant changes in cadence rather, due to the near highly varied terrain.


This is exactly what final team in the elite women’s line-up prefers. The Pedersen Lennard squad of Katie Lennard and Ila Stow have the technical skills to thrive in the race. Look for them to utilise sections like the Witzenberg Valley singletracks and the trail from the summit of the Merino Monster to the Bokveld plateau to their advantage.


The race will also feature an amateur women’s category for the first time, providing the non-elite women with an opportunity to contest for a First Ascent leaders’ jersey. Both Brigitte Joubert and Marisa van der Linde were among the elite starters in the Hell of the South, but the #SheUntamed team is set to start in the non-elite groups for the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen. As such they are the strong favourites going into the event.


To watch the elite women’s race unfold follow @tankwatrek on Twitter for updates from the race, from 9 to 12 February. News, photos and videos from the event will be posted to the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, Facebook page and on @tankwatrek on Instagram. For more information visit www.tankwatrek.co.za.


*All images by www.zcmc.co.za

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