Overall winners of this year’s joBerg2c women’s race, Anriette Schoeman and Samantha Sanders, will aim to add the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike title to their conquests when the race gets underway outside Addo on Friday.
Schoeman, who lives in nearby Port Elizabeth, had originally been preparing to defend her mixed title alongside John Wakefield, but his withdrawal from the three-day race opened up the opportunity to ride with Sanders.
After their success in the country’s longest stage race, the multiple former national road champion said she was looking forward to teaming up again with Sanders, who is based in Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga.
“I was a last-minute replacement for someone else at joBerg2c, but it turned out to be an amazing learning experience,” said the 38-year-old Schoeman.
“It was the first time that I have raced as a women’s pairing and I really enjoyed riding with Sam.
“When John pulled out, I took a chance and contacted her. She was keen to race Zuurberg as she’s heard only amazing things about it.”
With both riders having excelled at a national level, they are sure to be strong contenders in the category, which include two-time defending champions Andrea Shirley and SanMari Woithe.
“We are both competitive so we always race to get some results,” said Schoeman.
“I think in women’s racing you are able to ride more within yourself. I find where you are often pushed to ride above your own ability in mixed, you can pace yourself better among women.”
Schoeman said her 36-year-old teammate was excellent at judging pace to get the best out of the combination, but she was under no illusions as to the task at hand.
“Andrea and SanMari are always tough competition and both are skilled and competitive riders, so I think they will definitely be tough to beat.”
The competitive element aside, Schoeman said they were both excited about the unique experience of a race which encompassed a variety of trails and challenges.
“I do mountain biking in part for the fun aspect and the enjoyment of just riding my bike. The bonus is being spoilt at races like the Great Zuurberg Trek.”
Schoeman, who will ride in the colours of Africa Silks-Valencia, said her preparations for the race had not been ideal due to illness.
“I picked up a terrible cold after joBerg2c that had me bed-ridden for a week and was so persistent that I struggled to shake it off.
“In the women’s category I will be riding more within myself so it actually suits me better considering my form at the moment.”