Cape Town - Top Absa Cape
Epic team Trek Selle San Marco has had to make a last-minute change after
Italian Damiano Ferraro was injured in a crash.
champion Alexey Medvedev - who was scheduled to ride in the Trek Selle San
Marco back up team - will replace Ferraro and ride with Samuele Porro, who is
Porro won a stage and finished third overall last year and had been tipped as
dark horses for an overall victory this year.
his neck in a crash last month and apparently feels it has not recovered
adequately for him to ride at the sort of intensity required at the front end
of the Absa Cape Epic field.
should not weaken the team significantly: besides being the Russian champion,
Medvedev has been in excellent form recently and had a strong 2016 season.
Ferraro will now
ride the race with Italian Fabian Rabensteiner as a back-up team for Porro
The Trek Selle
San Marco team are among at least eight teams that have set their sights on
the top step of the podium when the race finishes at Val de Vie Estate in
Paarl on March 26.
The men’s field
is regarded as the strongest yet to take on the event.
Three teams are
slight favourites but several others may surprise them.
champions Karl Platt of Germany and Swiss Urs Huber (Bulls), five-time winner
Christoph Sauser of Switzerland and Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec Songo
Specialized) and Austrian Alban Lakata and Czech team-mate Kristian Hynek
(Topeak Ergon) have Absa Cape Epic pedigree that makes them the favourites.
But the pro
riders are also pointing to Centurion Vaude’s German pairing of Jochen Kaess
and Markus Kaufmann as serious contenders.
Also in the mix
could be Olympic gold medallist Nino Schurter of Switzerland and his countryman
Matthias Stirnemann (Scott-SRAM), German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique
Avancini (Cannondale) and South African Max Knox, who will be riding with
Colombian Hector Páez (Kansai Plascon).
As Platt said at
a press conference this week: “The racing’s going to be hectic.”
In the women’s
event three teams stand out. Defending champion Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland
will be back with a new partner Adelheid Morath of Germany (Spur) and have
set their sights firmly on a win.
They will have
to see off a mighty challenge from Ascendis Health’s combination of multiple
South African champion Robyn de Groot and former Olympic gold medallist
Sabine Spitz of Germany.
Also in the mix
should be the Swiss/Swedish combination of Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag
The Absa Cape
Epic kicks off with a prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, on
Sunday and then seven stages that take riders to Hermanus, Greyton, Elgin and
then on to Val de Vie.