Himeville - Having finished fourth, third and second in the past three years, Samantha Sanders will be hoping that in 2018 she can shrug off her bridesmaid tag and win her first KAP sani2c title with Amy McDougall at the three day race from 10-12 May.
The progress from the Dormakaba rider has been impressive to see and after a strong ride with McDougall in 2017, the focus will be entirely geared on going one better this year to go along with her sixth overall in the ladies category at the recent Absa Cape Epic.
It will be a reunion for the 2017 pair as Sanders and McDougall team up once again for the race this year - in the colours of Dormakaba. They were impressive twelve months ago and Sanders hopes that they can get through the three days unscathed this time around.
After the neutral second stage of last year's showdown, Sanders and McDougall held a lead of just over a minute, however unforeseen circumstances meant they relinquished that advantage over the final 83km from Jolivet to Scottburgh.
"We had a really good race last year and unfortunately Amy fell ill on the last day so that gave Candice (Lill) and Vera (Adrian) the advantage and they went on to win the race," Sanders mentioned.
"It was a great race and that is what we want to see in women's riding because there has been a lot of effort put in to get people to invest in ladies cycling.
"I hope that this year we will get another competitive field in the ladies race and we want to see strong teams on every start line at every race."
Sanders' sixth place at the Cape Epic with Austrian partner Carmen Buchacher was a race that was unlike any other for her.
"This year's Epic was really hectic!" the 34 year-old exclaimed. "It was my second Epic, after I rode with Jeannie Dreyer last year, and it was really tough.
"We managed to better my 2017 overall position by two places in the ladies race and it was great to be part of a strong team."
McDougall produced an impressive showing at the Cape Epic when she and Candice Lill finished fourth overall in the ladies race.
As the largest mountain bike stage race in the world, the sani2c attracts the top riders from around the country as it's quick flowing trails are conducive to fast times through the stages that wind from the Southern Drakensberg to the South Coast.
"We put a lot of value on sani2c every year, not only because it is a great race for us but it also gives our sponsors good exposure.
"It is such a fun, fast race that it is always exciting and I look forward to it every year," she added.
McDougall will be tackling the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c with Arno du Toit, which will give her the chance to test out the sani2c route with the final three days of the trek from Heidelburg to Scottburgh taking place on the same sani2c route.
"I am sure that her legs will be fine for sani2c next month. Amy hasn't been riding in the races between Epic and joBerg2c so she is fresh now and we should both have good racing legs by the time sani starts.
"The sani2c is always one of the races that I try and peak for so I hope that we are in good form going into the event," the optimistic Sanders concluded.
This year's sani2c will be McDougall's third shot at the sani2c since 2011 when she and Mike Hewan finished second in the mixed category being Ariana Luthi and Erik Kleinhans.
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