Cape Town - It’s
going to be the strongest Absa Cape Epic field yet and the racing should be
the word from the world’s top marathon riders as they prepare for March’s
Speaking at a Cape Town press conference on Wednesday several
of the race favourites were looking forward to a mighty battle.
champion and five-time winner Karl Platt of Team Bulls predicted that the racing
would be “even more exciting than previous years”.
have the best marathon racers in the world coming to the race,” commented
American Jeremiah Bishop of Topeak Ergon.
strongman Alban Lakata and his Topeak Ergon team-mate Kristian Hynek of the
Czech Republic will be among the favourites. Lakata pointed to several possible
contenders for the title: “Jaro (Kulhavy) and Susi (Christoph Sauser) are super
strong. The Bulls guys know how to win it. The Scott guys are very good at
descending and Nino (Schurter) has a lot of experience.”
it is best to win a race against this sort of competition,” he added.
said he was looking forward to racing in such a quality field: “I like it.
Having Christoph coming back will give the race another dynamic. We’ll have to
be stronger than ever before.”
Epic winner Sauser’s return from retirement with Kulhavy (Investec Songo
Specialized) of the Czech Republic has been the major talking point of the
pre-Cape Epic season. The Swiss rider said he was “very happy with my comeback ...
I’ve been surprised how well I’ve done and I am super motivated”.
indication of the level of competition as that seven of the men’s teams will
bring support or back up teams - more than ever before in the 14 years of the
Absa Cape Epic. They will be on hand to assist the big guns with mechanical or
other issues on the trails and sometimes to even hand over parts off their
and Kulhavy, Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls), Lakata and Hynek, world and Olympic
champion Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann (Scott-SRAM), Damiano Ferraro and
Samuele Porro (Trek Selle San Marco), Jochen Kaess and Markus Kaufmann
(Centurion Vaude) and Max Knox and Héctor Leonardo Páez (Kansai Plascon)
will all have backup teams in the race.
about the role of support teams in the Absa Cape Epic, Hynek said: “They are
super important. I would say having a backup team is crucial.”
year will also see the debut of a support team in the women’s category, where
defending champion Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland and her new partner, German
Adelheid Morath, (Team Spur) will bank on back-up from Frenchwoman Sabrina Enaux and Belgian Alice Pirard.
will have her work cut out making it a fourth successive win (all three
previous race she won with Dane Annika Langvad). She and Morath will have to
see off challenges from mountain bike legend and former Olympic gold medallist
Sabine Spitz of Germany and her South African partner Robyn de Groot (Ascendis
Health) as well as the formidable Swiss/Swedish combination of Esther Süss and
Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC).
racing is going to be very competitive and I think it is going to a good
category to watch,” said De Groot.
said: “We are pleased to have two very strong backup riders ... they are very,
very strong riders. It’s going to be a really exciting race.”
Absa Cape Epic takes place from March 19-26. It starts with a Prologue at
Meerendal Wine Estate before visiting Hermanus, Greyton and Elgin on the way to
the Grand Finale finish at Val de Vie Estate in Franschhoek.
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage
race takes place from March 19-26 and the much anticipated route can be