MULTIPLE former winner Kevin Evans will be in a different outfit when he defends his title in The Herald VW Cycle Tour's 80km Extreme Mountain Bike Challenge at Addo on Saturday.
Evans, who started his mountain biking career in Port Elizabeth, has joined FedGroup-Itec Connect in the wake of the much-publicised demise of his former team and will bring team-mates Brandon Stewart, who won in 2011, and Bridgette Minnaar-Stewart along for the ride.
The Plettenberg Bay-based rider said his training was going well despite having to recover from abdominal surgery in early December. "I'm about a month behind but should be back to full strength by mid-February."
He said he was looking forward to competing on the new course, after torrential rains forced a last-minute route change last year.
The four-times national marathon champion said he was expecting strong opposition from the likes of Team Blend Properties' Charles Keey and possibly former Tour de France rider John-Lee Augustyn, who has made a return to racing following an extended injury-induced layoff.
He will also be facing ex-teammate James Reid, former national road champion Darren Lill and cross-country racer Oliver Munnik.
Evans, 34, will also take part in the 106km Classic race in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, which will put him in line for the newly introduced Ultimate Quest category, which rewards riders with the shortest combined time in both events.
He said he was looking forward to a fresh start after his former Nedbank 360Life partner David George tested positive for the banned substance EPO late last year.
The women's race will be strengthened by the presence of British national road rider and recent mountain bike convert Catherine Williamson.
Williamson, who finished second in both the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in March and the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge in November last year, will be the woman to beat for the Ultimate Quest title.
Riders will be able to donate school uniforms, shoes and stationery at registration as part of the metro's initiative to support children in need. Join the conversation at @heraldcycletour or on Facebook.