South African Cycling

Süss, Williamson team up at Cape Epic

2016-01-21 11:29
Esther Süss (Supplied)
Cape Town - Switzerland’s Esther Süss has graced the top step of countless mountain bike podiums over the years, with two Absa Cape Epic wins being foremost among her successes.

And Briton Catherine Williamson has similarly savoured victory in the Women’s category of the world’s premier mountain bike stage race.

In 2016 they will be riding together in yet another of the power combinations that are set to make the women’s race one of the most intriguing ever.

In 2011 Süss and countryman Barti Bucher dominated the Mixed category and a year later she joined forces with another Briton, Sally Bigham, to win the Women’s category.

But Süss has had mixed fortunes in the world’s premier mountain bike stage race since then and will be hoping that all that will change in 2016 when she partners with Williamson (Team Meerendal Wheeler).

They are already a proven combination, having triumphed together in the 2015 Cape Pioneer Trek. But 41-year-old Süss and her 33-year-old partner were both playing down their chances against defending Epic champions Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans.

“We will try to get podiums as much as possible,” Süss said.

“I think an overall win will be very difficult.”

Williamson added: “I hope we can achieve an overall podium position and maybe even a stage win. The Epic is attracting the best field in the world of stage races now so I know it’s a tall order to even get on the podium. But I think with a lot of training, a little bit of luck and such a strong partner as Esther it is possible.”

Their modesty aside, they will be fancied by most fans to be at the sharp end of the field and to challenge the leading women’s teams.

Süss is a strong rider over longer distances and also has a marathon world championship to her name. Williamson is a stage race specialist and finished first in the 2013 Absa Cape Epic with Yolande Speedy.

Williamson was fulsome in her praise of Süss: “She is an amazing athlete and I have a huge amount of respect for her as she is also a fun person to ride with. I spent most of the Pioneer trying to sit on her wheel but I was never made to feel under pressure and we were consistent the whole week through.”

Williamson is already in the Cape to train in South African conditions: “I have increased my strength work this winter so I'm hoping that will help with the steep climbs in the Epic,” she said. 

“I love everything about mountain bike stage races, from the challenge of the terrain to the friendships you make along the way. My strongest asset I think is not only my endurance for multi-day races, but also being able to accept and deal with whatever is thrown in your path - and during such a tough race as the Epic there are always lots of things thrown everywhere.”

What brings them back to the Absa Cape Epic?

“The ambiance, the challenge, the country,” said Süss.

Williamson added: “It is always different from other stage races as it attracts so many competitors and spectators and at some point the weather also throws in its own challenges, be it by turning freezing cold and raining or blowing a gale. These things always make for a memorable and super challenging week. To miss it would feel like missing out.”

The 2016 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from March 13-20 and the much anticipated route can be viewed here.  

The 2016 race will host the 100th stage in the history of the event - the EPIC100 -  on Tuesday, March 15. 

Read more on:    cape epic  |  cycling
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