Cape Town - Ariane
Lüthi says that replacing Annika Langvad as an Absa Cape Epic partner was an
“almost impossible” challenge.
Lüthi/Langvad combination swept aside all Hansgrohe Women’s category
challengers for the past three years, but the Danish superstar has decided to
return to her studies and will not be able to make the 2017 Cape Epic.
now Lüthi believes that she has come up with the perfect answer:
Germany’s Adelheid Morath.
Stellenbosch-based Swiss rider explained this week how the Team Spur
partnership came about: “To cut a long story short, Adelheid sent me a message
saying she would be available,” Lüthi explains.
“It has turned out to be even
better than I first thought: Adelheid is a world-class rider and has a very
professional approach ... I am really excited to be racing with her.”
raced against Morath in the Swiss Epic in 2015, where she and Langvad finished
second to the German and Briton Sally Bigham.
is a very good climber - I saw that on the Swiss Epic - and a really good
technical rider,” says Lüthi.
German has UCI World Cup cross country series top 10 finishes to her name and a
compelling argument for teaming up with her is that she has already knows the
Cape Epic. In 2016 Morath raced the Untamed African mountain bike stage race
for the first time and finished third overall with Bigham.
says of that experience: “I was happy about it, but it also made me hungry for
more. Directly after the Cape Epic (I decided I wanted) to come back and finish
even better. I got a very good chance to team up together with Ariane. It’s
the hardest race I ever did - anything can happen at any time.”
is unequivocal about their ambitions: “Every stage will be a new challenge and
we have to give our best every day. Our goal is the overall win and also stage
points out that there are several teams that will be fighting for the podium,
but welcomes this: “I want to win this race against the strongest possible
competition ... it is better to win the with a one minute gap than one hour.”
has thrown herself into her preparation with extra vigour this year and is
working with a new coach, Denmark’s Thomas Bonne, who also coaches Langvad.
Lüthi said she had “a few hiccups” with her preparation but now “I’m back on
track and things are going really well”.
major change this year - and yet another indication of the evolution of
the Women’s category - is that Lüthi and Morath will have a support team
in Frenchwoman Sabrina Enaux and Belgian Alice Pirard. The latter finished the
Cape Epic in 2015 in fifth place, but Enaux will be taking part for the first
time. Last year Enaux finished third on the Marathon World Championship and
Pirard won Australia’s Crocodile Trophy and her national
up or support teams have become routine in the men’s event and are seen as
being key to success: their role is to be on hand to help with mechanical or
other issues as the race unfolds. This is the first time a team has been
directly recruited to play the role for a women’s team and they might prove to
be the difference over eight tough days.
will be coming to South Africa to ride and train with Lüthi next week and will
stay on until after the Cape Epic.
first race will be the Tankwa Trek,” says Morath.
a good test for Ariane and me on how we work together as a team. And afterwards
we can work on things that can be better. I also will have the time to shred
some trails and adapt to the hot temperatures compared to the cold at home in
is clearly a fan of the Cape Epic: “It’s such a huge event
which is just perfectly organised. The people there just give you the feeling
they love this sport! I also like the stage routes. For me South
Africa is perfect place for real mountain biking on nice and challenging
trails. I also like the special atmosphere in the Cape Epic race villages.”
The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from March 19-26 and the much anticipated route can be viewed HERE