With 112 international participants from 20 countries taking part in the Old Mutual joBerg2c in South Africa, the nine-day mountain bike race is fast achieving global status.
The fourth edition, which starts in Johannesburg on 26 April, will see well-known foreign riders competing with some of the country's best cyclists, including former winner Neil MacDonald and new partner Brandon Stewart from Team Itec.
The field includes top British marathon riders Tim Dunford and Ben Thomas, as well as Italian Vanni Balboni - a former winner of the gruelling Ironbike in Italy, rated as possibly the toughest MTB stage race in the world - with his South African partner Oliver Munnik.
Also in the 700-strong field is the formidable Swiss mixed pairing of Yves Corminboeuf and Jane Nüssli. They will come up against fellow countrywoman Ariane Kleinhans and her South African husband Erik, who are two-time Absa Cape Epic champions.
"We welcome mountain bikers from all over," said Craig Wapnick, on behalf of the organisers. "While we love a good race, most of our international entrants appear to be the type who love riding more than racing."
Wapnick said the event seemed to attract mountain biking purists who appreciated the 910km off-road journey from Heidelberg in Gauteng to Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.
"You get to ride great routes, meet great people and race, if racing is your game."
He said the event was an ideal way to experience all aspects of the country, from its inland regions to the Indian Ocean.
"This year, we've had a surge in interest from riders in Belgium, the UK, Switzerland and Australia," Wapnick added. He attributed the increase to good publicity in overseas publications and word-of-mouth promotion from former participants.
"Although we are flattered to have this overseas interest, we realise that 80 percent of our riders are passionate South Africans who want to ride the beloved country."
Wapnick said participants also helped disadvantaged rural communities along the route by either riding for their own charitable causes or supporting the officially endorsed Participate for Good initiative, which creates container libraries along the route.
"The word is out there, that this is more than a ride. It's a journey of the soul," he concluded.
Entries for the fully booked event closed at the end of January.