The TIB Insurance-Contego team made light work of the inaugural event two years ago, claiming a hat-trick of stage wins en route to the overall title.
Last year Hill, who races out of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, joined forces with Cape Town’s Chris Wolhuter, but had to settle for the runners-up spot.
This time Wolhuter will team up with new partner Craig Boyes and the Imbuko-Freewheel Cycology outfit should be strong contenders after dominating the Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter in mid-April.
“Coming back to Zuurberg is always a treat for me,” said the 34-year-old Hill, who placed fifth overall in last month’s nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c.
“I really think the event has something special, even to the seasoned mountain biker.
“The trails, views and the Eastern Cape hospitality are up there among the best in the country and I love heading back to take part.”
Hill said he was looking forward to partnering with the 25-year-old Louw, who hails from Paarl in the Western Cape, for another shot at the title.
“Adriaan and I get on well off the bike, but, more importantly, we gel on the bike, really working together when it is called for.
“He is going well at the moment and it will be a great advantage to be able to tap into his experience and strengths in our bid to regain the title.”
While their focus will be on racing, Hill said they were looking forward to the overall experience of competing at Zuurberg after a busy start to the season.
“The three days are certainly going to be something special for us. I’m looking forward to the fun aspect of the trails and the relaxed atmosphere at the hotel after each day’s riding.”
Hill said the terrain set the race apart from other events with the daily finish at the top of Zuurberg Pass.
“It is a tester for the racing guys and provides a great sense of achievement for the rest of the field.
“I also enjoy the views on the queen stage (day two) where you can see the Karoo on the one side and the coast on the other.”
The Port Elizabeth-based Merrell team of SanMari Woithe and Andrea Shirley will target a hat-trick of victories in the women’s category.
“I’m looking forward to teaming up with SanMari, with whom I’ve raced a lot,” said Shirley
“We love racing in our ‘back yard’ and our objective is to win while having as much fun as possible.”
She said they knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which helped in a stage race with such varied course conditions.