DURBAN - The stage is set for the 14th KAP Sani2c trek from Sani Pass to Scottsburgh, with the main starting at 8am on Thursday.
Already, the bulk of the entrants for the 2018 edition are well on their way to the sea, with the ever popular Adventure version of the event having started on Wednesday morning.
In that adventurous bunch were a clutch of former sportsmen, led by a group of former Boks that include Stefan Terblanche, Joel Stransky, Warren Brosnihan, John Slade and the beefy Trevor Halstead.
By any measure, the Adventure event is the most popular, as it provides enough competition to keep those who like a bit of an edge interested, but it also houses many of the ‘buggers’, those who stay by the fire long after the athletes have gone to bed with their plans for the next morning.
Ahead of the Adventure, the Trail race kicked off on Tuesday. That is for the novices, those who make their way down to the coast at a civilised pace, taking the time to soak in the scenery and the autumnal portrait that the Underberg and surrounds has splashed out for entrants.
But, as many will tell you, the real competition starts with the real athletes, the select band of cyclists who click off this morning, working in tandem and looking for glory at the end of three days.
At the head of that list is Julian Jessop and his partner, Matthys Beukes, who will ride for the PYGA/Euro Steel team, and are coming off some very promising form.
At the Absa Cape Epic, the duo walked off with the African jersey, for the best performance from the Mother Continent.
In the joBerg2c, Beukes went on and won the individual event by himself.
2mins to start. expect fireworks as soon as the 3km neutral zone ends pic.twitter.com/zslHBMcspl
Clearly, then, they are the duo to beat in 2018, especially as Beukes has already been part of the winning team in each of the last two Sani2c races.
“I didn’t think of us as favourites before,” local boy Jessop said when he was asked about the pressure of expectation on their shoulders.
“I’ve done a lot of preparation focussing on the Sani, so I feel really good. Matthys obviously had a very good joBerg2c, so he’s on fire,” he added of his partner.
But, it is the responsibility of being the rider with a target on his back that doesn’t sit well in the saddle for Jessop. He is far happier blending into the crowd, and letting the race unravel over the course of 260km of unpredictability.
“I don’t know about favourites," he said. “We really haven’t thought about it like that. We have prepared well, and we want to win. So hopefully that happens.
“We have really prepared well, and we are looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be a good race,” he said cheerfully.
Jessop and Beukes will have their answer in three days, when they roll into Scottsburgh Primary School - hopefully with their favourites’ tag still intact.