The classic experience and youth combination will face a huge task to upset the trio of pre-race favourites – the PYGA EuroSteel combination of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes, the NAD Pro MTB Team of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell, and Team BCX’s Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger.
However, the all-KZN duO, riding under the TIB Insurance colours, will be looking to harness and pool their respective strengths together to combine into a team that can challenge the big guns when they set off on their three-day journey on Thursday.
“(Jessop) is a youngster and very quick, so I will have to hang on to him at times. He is suited to the technical stuff and should be good for about three and a half hours of hard racing.
“It is his first sani and has not done much stage racing. I have done about seven sanis so hopefully I can impart some of my experience to him and he can pull me along on when we need it,” added the Upper Highway resident with a laugh.
“We can aim for a top five realistically I think, and if one or two of the other teams have a bad day then we could hope for a place on the podium.”
The Durban-based rider said he had seen the KAP sani2c has come a full circle and transformed itself.
“It is a race that has evolved since Farmer Glen (Haw) and Nick (Floros) first started it about 13 years ago, and it seems to me it has gone a full circle.
“I think Glen got irritated that it seemed to be taken over by the corporate culture and he has moved it back to a race that suits the mountain bikers.
“For a while it went toward a type of race that suited the road riders, and now it has turned through a full circle and mountain bikers like myself can be more competitive on the trails once again, rather than fighting for position on the district roads.
“It is a race that will always hold a special place for KZN riders. Actually it is more than that: it will always be special for all South African riders.”
For Hill, the new climb out of the Umkomaas Valley on Day 2 of the race is an example of Haw returning the race to its mountain biking roots.
“The new section after the Umkomaas River is completely new to us. I have tried to get some information out of those guys who rode the joBerg2c (which includes the entire sani2c route).
“From what I can tell that climb will be very similar to the old climb before they moved it a few years ago. It seems to be fairly steep and a lot of Jeep track riding.
“Day 2 is always a key day and I think the climb will be make or break for the racers.
“Day 1 is always very fast and normally has a close finish. Day 2 always has bigger gaps and then Day 3 it is so fast there are normally a lot of guys together at the end.
“The new climb will make for bigger gaps. The pace on Day 2 is always very fast from the start and a scramble to get into the descent first, but then settles down a bit. After the water point just before the climb, the pace picks up again.
“The guys who have good climbing legs will make up time there, but anybody who goes too hard on the climb may pay the price and not have the legs on the rolling roads towards the finish. They could lose a lot of time they gained by climbing too quickly.
“You get a couple of strong riders who are feeling good and they get together on that section before the last water point and you can make up a lot of time.”
This year is the 13th edition of the KAP sani2c, the world’s largest mountain bike stage race, which takes place from Himeville to Scottburgh.
There are three races which form the event. On Tuesday, the Trail riders set off from Himeville for MacKenzie Farm near Ixopo. Then on the Wednesday, while the Trail competitors are heading for Jolivet Farm in Highflats, the Adventure riders take on Stage 1. As the Trail riders complete their event to Scottburgh on May 11, the serious Race riders set off on their three-day journey from Himeville.
For more information on KAPsani2c: Info@KAPsani2c.co.za or www.sani2c.co.za.