Cape Town - The
Topeak Ergon and Centurion Vaude teams will forever be linked through an
extraordinary act of sportsmanship at the 2014 Absa Cape Epic.
however, they will be major rivals for one of the biggest prizes in mountain
biking: the Absa Cape Epic overall winner’s yellow jersey.
years ago Centurion Vaude’s Jochen Kaess and Markus Kaufmann, both German, were
leading after two days but a broken frame put them out of contention. On Stage
3 Topeak Ergon’s Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic and Robert Mennen, also
German, took the lead.
disaster struck for Hynek and Mennen on Stage 5 when the former simultaneously
punctured both his front and back tyres. The Centurion Vaude pair stopped and
fortunately Kaufmann’s wheels and gearing were compatible
bike: he took them off his bike and handed them over.
“That was an amazing
sporting gesture and I owe them big time,” said Hynek after going on to take
the overall win.
is unlikely that the debt will be repaid this year: both teams are among the
and Kaufmann are back together but Mennen has since been replaced in the Topeak
Ergon team by Austrian Alban Lakata, who has previously finished sixth, fifth,
fourth, third and second in the Absa Cape Epic.
desperate for a win, Lakata says he faces “probably the most competitive field
the win is what we want, but this year's edition has a brutal starter field and
it will be very hard to achieve the victory,” says the Austrian strongman.
see Bulls (Karl Platt and Urs Huber), Specialized (Christoph Sauser and
Jaroslav Kulhavy), Scott (Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann) and Centurion
Vaude as the main contenders for the title.”
is clearly deadly serious and declares himself “100% focused ... this year I
decided to focus my preparation fully on the Cape Epic and South African
this end he will spend nearly three months in Stellenbosch training with local
Erik Kleinhans. He has also kicked off his racing season earlier than normal
and last weekend finished second to Sauser at the Attakwas Extreme.
This weekend he will do the national marathon series race in Grabouw and
then the Tankwa Trek, by which time he will have been joined in South Africa by
and Kaufmann were among the favourites before disaster struck in 2014 and
injuries have prevented them from riding together in the Cape Epic since
“After our bad luck in the last years our goal is to win the race,” says
“But of course we would be also happy about the overall podium ... a
lot of really strong teams are taking part in the race.”
adds: “The challenge is harder every year and this year Susi (Sauser) is back
in the business ... plus Bulls and Topeak. The podium is our minimum goal but we
are looking with one eye at the overall win.”
four have been poring over the route and are anticipating a tough challenge.
know Hermanus a bit - we stayed there for three weeks two years ago,” says
“We are planning to do some training in Hermanus and Greyton to get to
know them and get used to the conditions. The stages will be very hard and
challenging, as always.”
in another indication of their ambitions, both teams have excellent support.
Lakata and Hynek will be able to depend on an experienced back up team in
Kleinhans and the USA’s Jeremiah Bishop. Centurion Vaude’s support team of
Austrians Daniel Geismayr and Hermann Pernsteiner finished ninth in 2016 and
will provide powerful assistance.
has started eight Cape Epics and finished seven, Hynek three and finished two,
Kaufmann has finished the event four times and Kaess five times. What is it
that keeps them coming back?
Cape Epic is the biggest race in the world and must do for marathon racers like
us,” says Lakata.
Hynek adds: “The race is special, the atmosphere is unique
and the competition is very, very high. I have won it once, but I am 100%
motivated to win it again with Alban.”
Absa Cape Epic is one of my favourite race and the plan is to win this race once
in my life,” says Kaess. And Kaufmann: “We learned a lot in the Epics in
the past and want to do a perfect race. When everything runs fine, everything
is possible. * The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage
race takes place from March 19-26 and the much anticipated route can be