For the first time in mountain biking history, the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series is about to take over Kaapsehoop, a quaint town situated in Mpumalanga. Spectators are in for a treat as Team Pyga Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes gear up for battle.

Less than 200 points separate the mountain biking giants, who are equally determined to take the series title in an epic sibling showdown.

Buys made his intentions clear: “The main goal is obviously to have Pyga Euro Steel on the top of the podium. So the plan is to race as a team initially, and sort out our competition first. But once that’s out the way… it’s race on for the overall win!”

Beukes will certainly be a tough competitor to beat, especially after the form he displayed at Berg & Bush recently when he completely annihilated his competitors on the climbing challenge. He will have ample opportunity to maximise his strengths this weekend as both stages have about a 1600m elevation gain!

“Matthys is a mentally strong rider and a really good climber, and that’s probably going to be the greatest challenge for me. I’ll give it my best though – I like to think of him as ‘friendly competition’,” said Buys.

Beukes admits that the technical skills of his teammate will be the greatest obstacle to overcome. He looks forward to the challenge, however, and has already thought out his race strategy:

“This is very exciting! I know a lot about Philip, from the way trains right down to his strengths and weaknesses. I’ve planned my race strategy around that, and I’m pretty sure he’s done the same,” said Beukes.  

With marathon champion Nico Bell and his Team NAD Pro teammate, Gawie Combrinck out of the mix, Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health) will present the next greatest threat. This race will also mark the return of dark horse Max Knox, who has fully recovered from an injury and has the potential to cause a major upset.

Another potential podium contender confirmed to start is Wessel Botha, currently sixth in the 2017 Series, who is bracing himself for a “brutal route with lots of climbs.”

In the women’s race, Candice Lill (Dormakaba) has raised her hand as the lady to beat. With series leader Robyn de Groot absent from the event and Sam Sanders unconfirmed, it looks like victory is steering in Lill’s direction.

“I always like a challenge, so I’d prefer to race against Robyn and Sam. But if everything works in my favour, I stand a pretty good chance of winning this one,” said Lill.

Should Sanders attend the event, Lill is fully aware of the stiff climbing competition she will face:

“I feel pretty confident when it comes to climbing, especially after winning the climbing challenge at Berg & Bush. Sam is explosive and does well on the shorter climbs , while I much prefer grinding it out on the longer stuff. Looks like Kaapsehoop will have both kind of climbs, so it will be tight if she races!”

Kaapsehoop is a little town with a fairytale charm and historical appeal. Situated at 1586m above sea level on the Highveld escarpment, this mountain village is home to more wild horses than people!

While the name may be misleading, the venue is a mere 3 hour trip from Johannesburg and 30 minute trip from Nelspruit. The De Kaap Valley has been hidden from the public eye until now, and has remained a secret training ground for mountain bikers lucky enough to discover its exquisite trails.

That is all about to change, however, as riders gear up for an exciting Ashburton Investments National MTB Series season finale. It will be a race of unparalleled beauty with sheer cliffs and singletrack trails through the indigenous Sappi forests and Komatiland plantations.

Sections of the race will also take riders through the Blue Swallow Reserve, a countryside that is characterised by rolling hills and Blue Swallows that the area is renowned for.

One of the most exciting features of this event will be the finish line. For the first time in the mountain bike series, riders will end the stage race on a mountain-top.

This is an event not to be missed!
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