250 athletes from all corners of the planet will take part in the fourth edition of UTCT, the first as part of the prestigious Ultra-trail World Tour, with over 700 racing in 35km and 65km events. More than half of the athletes entered for the 100km race will be flying in from abroad.
The 32-year-old American, Bowman, has enjoyed a memorable year on the Ultra-trail World Tour circuit, and following his marriage last month, will not lack in positive energy facing one of the most challenging and technical routes on the tour.
Like Sandes, Bowman traded his team-sport passion for a lonelier sporting pursuit. While the South African dreamt of playing rugby for the Springboks, Bowman proved a more-than capable Lacrosse exponent.
Growing up in the outdoor mecca and mountain paradise of Boulder, Colorado, “DBo” as he is known, was involved in competitive sport from a young age, before an initial curiosity in trail running while training for Lacrosse turned into a passion and lifestyle.
Bowman has enjoyed podium success at many premier trail events around the world, but unlike Sandes, he has yet to win in two of the USA’s top races.
Bowman placed 3rd in the 2014 Western States 100 miler, with Sandes winning the event in June this year. And while Bowman’s runner-up position at the 2011 Leadville 100 miler in the Colorado Rockies impressed, the American was almost 30 minutes behind the race winner - Sandes.
Nonetheless, Bowman has previously excelled in Southern Hemisphere races, capturing two world ultra-trail titles in 2015 - the Ultra-trail Australia and the Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand - both over 100km, and in April this year he added another world tour title to his collection, taking line honours at the “100 miles of Istria” in Croatia.
Bowman targeted the 170km Ultra-trail Mont Blanc in September as his major focus for the year and he placed a creditable seventh in what many consider the most competitive ultra-trail race in history, after running in fourth position for much of the race.
While happy with a top ten spot at the French event, Bowman felt he left something behind on the trails and is looking to end the year on a high with victory in Cape Town.
Another trail athlete chasing a podium finish next week also transitioned from team sport. Swiss athlete, Diego “Zpeedy” Pazos, traded his passion for football for racing alpine trails above his home in Lausanne, before making his mark as a leading athlete on the world circuit.
The larger-than-life Swiss athlete’s racing signature is a bushy moustache and dapper bowtie. But his unusual racing attire belies his speed on the trails and he boasts a string of victories in races over the planet and several podium positions in leading events.
Pazos’ emphatic win in last year’s 42km Mont Blanc Marathon was his stand-out performance to date and marks him as a significant threat to Sandes’ aspirations, while his successes at the legendary Grand Raid Reunion 100 miler - fourth in 2015 and third in this year’s edition last month - suggests he will not struggle with the distance in Cape Town.
Two leading athletes will line up in the women’s competition. Australia’s Lucy Bartholomew and Swiss veteran Andrea Huser represent the strongest competition to local adventure racer and trail athlete, Robyn Owen, in a contest potentially as competitive as the men’s.
A teammate of Landie Greyling in the global Salomon team, Bartholomew enjoyed a purple patch mid-year, winning this year’s Ultra-trail Australia in May, finishing second at the 80km Mont Blanc Marathon in France before winning the 40km Scafell Race in north England.
Swiss nurse, Andrea Huser, is seldom off the podium in world ultra-marathons, boasting a second place in last year’s Ultra-trail Mont Blanc and will be looking for further success in Cape Town, where she has spent significant time training in the European winter.