Last year's 100km Ultra-trail Cape Town winner, Prodigal Khumalo from Zimbabwe, is back to compete for the top spot in this year's race. Photo: Craig Kolesky
Cape Town - More than 350 international elite athletes are expected to flock to the Mother City for the much-anticipated Ultra-trail Cape Town (UTCT) - the final race of the 2018 Ultra-trail World Tour - starting this weekend.

Now in its fifth year, the race has grown hugely from 200 participants in 2014 to 1700 athletes competing in all four of its races this year.

The races will start on Saturday with the 100km, 65km and 35km, followed by the 21km race on Sunday. The 21km race was introduced last year.

Athletes will traverse sections of Table Mountain, Lion's Head, Signal Hill, Orange Kloof, Llandudno, Hout Bay, the Constantia Winelands, the upper slopes of Kirstenbosch Nature Reserve and Devil's Peak.

This year's tour comprises 21 separate events on the world's different continents, with all participants earning points, according to their finishing position, contributing to their annual rankings, which is calculated on the basis of each athlete's best two results for the year.

The men's and women's tour champions will be named after the UTCT finale, with incentives at stake for both the top five male and female athletes.

Local trail running enthusiast Ryan Sandes came second last year, the first time he had taken on the event.

“I am stoked to be a part of UTCT again this year. It's pretty awesome to have some of the best trail runners in the world coming to race in my backyard.

"We have a very cool trail community in Cape Town, and getting to run in front of them is always really special. In the space of a few years, UTCT has become one of the must-do races on the global trail running scene, and I can't wait to be on the start line,” he said.

Sandes goes into this year's race with the advantage of having trained regularly on the route and has the support of the local trail running community.

Kerry-Ann Marshal, the winner of the UTCT 100km in 2015, is another local runner to look out for.

“The route covers everything you can imagine, such as technical climbs, steep descents, beach, forests, stairs and fast-running sections. 

"I'm so grateful to be able to attempt this again and am already visualising running over the line with my little girl,” she said.