Tiffany Keep is hoping for another win on Saturday before jetting off to the World Championships. Photo: Tim Whitfield

DURBAN - The 2018 Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash will see new champions being crowned on Saturday as both defending champions in the men and women's race, are out of action for this year's race. Men's champion Julian Jessop and the women's champion Bianca Haw are in France where they are participating in the final leg of the cross country world cup.

The 42km, 21km and 10km as well as an eliminator-style development race at the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash are part of a weekend of events that also include a road running marathon, trail runs, a fun run and a triathlon. The races take place in the Midlands in honour of former president Nelson Mandela.

However, their international aspiration will be an opportunity for another two new champions come Saturday.   

In the men's race Stuart Marais is hoping to complete his progression from third in 2016 to second in 2017 to a victory in 2018, but he will face some serious competition from a strong field, which includes the likes of in-form Tyronne White, Andrew Johnson and Henry Liebenberg

In the women's race Thomas More College pupil, Tiffany Keep, is a favorite to claim the victory, while Jeannie Dreyer will be sure to pose a threat to her young rival.

Keep will be using the MTD Dash as her final preparation event before she boards a plane to compete in the World Cross Country Championships in Switzerland early next month, before returning to write her matric exams.

"It was the same last year when I had a good tussle with Bianca Haw for most of the race. It is good for me to race against older riders so I can push myself and that gives me good motivation before I go overseas," said Keep.

She said she enjoyed the course.

Stuart Marais is the favourite to claim the title at the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Champs on Saturday. Photo: Tim Whitfield

"The course is always nice there. There is quite a lot of fast district road riding and a fair amount of climbing, as well as lots of single track which I really enjoy. And of course the fact that the race is in honour of Nelson Mandela adds to the event. He was a great man and so to race in an event that is in his honour just makes the event even more special,” said the Thomas More College pupil.

Dreyer on the other hand is a mother of two children and coming toward the end of a stellar career as a multi-sport athlete and cyclist. Dreyer is well-known for her ability to tough it out on ultra-distance events when she regularly takes on and beats the top male competitors.