The weather’s looking fast; here’s who to watch at the 2023 Old Mutual Wealth Double Century

It’s time! The Old Mutual Wealth Double Century speaks to the racing hearts and minds of South Africa’s best cyclists, and the 2023 event is no different. For most, it’s a fun day out with a handful of mates, covering the 202km as fast as they comfortably can.

The slower teams start first, from what seems an unreasonable 5am at gaps of 30 seconds. From around 7am, though, it’s a different story. For the racing snakes, lose the word ‘comfortably’. It’s a race, full-gas on the pristine roads of the Overberg.

Former national road racing champion Hayley Preen’s Private Client Holding Mixed team will be looking to repeat their 2022 success, with another national champ, Frances Janse van Rensburg, Zanri Rossouw and Alice Towers ably supported by MTB pro sensations Justin Chesterton and Kai von During and road specialist Jason Bruintjies. Their competition should come from the Hit Squad and Winelands Mixed outfits, with names like Elrika Harmzen Pretorius, S’annara Grove, Lize Cornelius, Kelsey van Schoor and Juanita McKenzie looking to unseat the champions.

The women’s race sets off earlier than the mixed and male action, around 6am, and each of the competing teams draws on a mixture of youthful talent and wily experience to battle for the win. In 2022, it was Reach for Rainbows who won; this year the trophy will likely go to one of three outfits: Tiletoria has invested heavily in experience with veteran riders like Michelle Lombardi, Hanlie Booyens, Fienie Barnard, Martha Koekemoer, Marleen Lourens and Alisha Myers looking to make the most of their vast experience to overcome the potentially speedier Paceline (riders include Ila Gray, Kylie Hanekom, Kate Slegrova, Layla Schwellnus, Tarryn Povey and Amber Hindmarch) and CMC (look out for Nadine and Nadia Visser, Tandi Kitching, Bronwyn Timm and Tina Brenzel) outfits with race craft and a the ridiculous good humour with which they tackle even the hottest of race days.

Not far behind the leading mixed squads, the open teams will see DMS&Co, Rouleur Tritans Racing, LPC, Pure Savage and Freewheel Cycology leading the charge out of Swellendam. On paper, DMS&Co carry some big names: Former national champions Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg and Jaco Venter, overseas pros Willie Smit, Kent Main and Gustav Basson and a handful of equally-strong local wattage monsters (including this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour winner, Chris Jooste) will make life difficult for Rouleur Tritans Racing. The Tritans have legendary Ironman athlete Matt Trautman as their star rider, with a collection of strong triathletes backing him up with the ability to go long on the day… the Ironman bike leg is just 20km shorter than the OMWDC, and tucking into a Food Lover’s Market braai pack instead of having to run a marathon straight off the bike will give them wings.

LPC boasts two international big-names in current Lidl-Trek pro Jasper Stuyven and recently-retired Rabobank stalwart Maarten Tjallingii guiding a squad slightly less famous, but definitely in with a dark-horse chance in an event where teamwork sometimes trumps pure strength. Freewheel Cycology always bring their A-game, and this year have roped in ex SA Champ Stoff van Heerden, euro-pro Byron Munton and Tour de France veteran Rene Haselbacher to add pro firepower to their slick teamwork. And then there’s Pure Savage and Mother Amateur talking the talk again in ’23, minus the big names but with a collection of super-experienced and powerful local riders who know these roads backwards, and each other even better.

Will experience and teamwork better Big Names? We will know just after lunch time on Saturday, 25 November.