An-Li Kachelhoffer goes off-road for Winelands Encounter

Former national road champion and Rio Olympian An-Li Kachelhoffer will change disciplines when she rides the three-day Liberty Winelands Encounter mountain bike race in the Boland from Friday.

The Bestmed-ASG star will team up with Pieter Seyffert, who won the recent TransCape alongside Travis Walker, to form a formidable pairing in the mixed section.

“I thought it would be good to tick something different off the list this year and decided it would be a nice change to go in a new direction,” said Kachelhoffer, who took silver at the SA National Road Championships in Wellington in February.

More at home on than off-road, she said she felt she lacked a few of the necessary “qualifications” for a technically demanding race such as the Winelands Encounter.

“Although I enjoy riding my mountain bike, I know that I’m behind when it comes to technical knowledge. I would say that I have a grade one qualification and you really need a matric,” she joked.

The 29-year-old said she felt better knowing that she would have the experienced Seyffert at her side.

“It was a spontaneous decision to take part and I’ve warned Pieter that I ended up on my face the last time I raced a mountain bike.

“He knows not to put too much pressure on me, but he’s a chilled, fun guy so I know he’ll be there to guide me and help me enjoy the experience.”

Paarl has recently become home to Kachelhoffer and she said the race – which visits Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington – would allow her to stay close to her base while enjoying time on the bike.

Labelled as one of the most beautiful races in South Africa, it winds through 160km of pristine Winelands terrain.

“After only getting on my mountain bike again recently, riding around the Paarl area, I couldn’t help but realise what I’ve been missing out on.

“The scenery is just spectacular,” said Kachelhoffer, who felt change was as good as a holiday.

“I think this will be a fun balance of enjoyment and scenery and I’m looking forward to trying something different.

“At the end of the day you need to have fun on your bike and, whichever way you fuel your passion, that’s what you should be doing, regardless of what shape or form that may come in.”

This year’s Liberty Winelands Encounter, in partnership with STANLIB, features a number of route changes, including an easier opening stage and less climbing throughout.

Kachelhoffer said she would resume her road racing schedule at the Tour Durban at the end of the month.