Himeville – As the other two KAP sani2c events, the Trail and the Adventure, continue on their way to the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast town of Scottburgh, South Africa's mountain biking elite will line up for their assault on the three-day route from Himeville to the Indian Ocean on Thursday.
The race has evolved over the last 12 years into one of the country's premier stage races and 2017 will be no different as the event has attracted some of South Africa's strongest marathon and stage mountain bike riders, along with a few stand-out cross-country specialists.
The fast-paced competitive nature of the event draws the nation's leading teams and with the bulk of the men's elite field racing alongside the same partners that they raced with at the Absa Cape Epic, it shows the prestige of the KAP sani2c title.
After taking home the prestigious Absa Cape Epic African Jersey for being the highest placed all-African team, Team PYGA Euro Steel's duo of Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys will definitely be the team to watch.
Not only did the impressive duo outshine their fellow African's at the Cape Epic but they also outshone everyone at the recent Old Mutual joBerg2c.
The joBerg2c is a nine-day race that takes riders from Gauteng to Scottburgh, but the most vital part for this week's racers is that the joBerg2c incorporates all three days of the KAP sani2c, meaning it gives them invaluable time on the route to brush up their route knowledge.
Beukes and Buys were chased hard to the coast over the testing nine days of the joBerg2c by the NAD Pro MTB duo of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell. After finishing the 2016 sani2c in second place despite winning the final stage to the coast, the NAD Pro pair might use that stage victory as inspiration going into the 2017 showdown.
They have established themselves as one of the top stage racing pairs in the country over the past 12 months and after losing out twice to PYGA Euro Steel, once at the Cape Epic and secondly at joBerg2c, they will be hoping to go one better on the third attempt of 2017.
A team that might spring a surprise or two should the leading partnerships come unstuck is the Team BCX combination of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger. Despite the pair cruising under the radar they have both been in top form and together will push the leaders to the coast.
Two other pairs that must be noted for their podium potential are the Ryder RED E Spot Africa team of Tim Hammond and Matthew Beers as well as the Durban-based Team TIB pairing of Andrew Hill and the young Julian Jessop.
The fast-paced nature of the sani2c lends itself to mechanical problems and these two combinations will be more than willing to capitalise on mistakes from the leading teams, should they arise.
The women's race at the 2017 sani2c seems to be a two-team tussle with the dormakaba pairing of Candice Lill (neé Neethling) and Vera Adrian returning to defend the crown they won in 2016, taking on the Ascendis Health team of national marathon champion Robyn de Groot and national cross country champion Mariska Strauss.
The dormakaba duo took part in the Absa Cape Epic together this year which stands them in good stead as a combination, whereas De Groot and Strauss will be teaming up for the first time at the sani2c.
With the Lill/Adrian combination having the experience of racing together in a high-pressure situation, De Groot and Strauss will have to call on all their skill and talent to get one over the younger pairing.
The pedigree of De Groot and Strauss will be a concern for Team dormakaba as individually the Ascendis Health duo are both amongst the best in the country, however they will need to gel quickly over three intense days of racing.
A dark horse combination in the ladies race would be the Valencia Ladies team of Samantha Sanders and Amy Mcdougall. The pair will be ready to pounce on any mistake that the leading combinations might make.