Cape Town - The Absa Cape Epic’s joint most decorated champion, five times winner,
Christoph Sauser, is back.
Returning after a year in retirement the Swiss
star will once again be teaming up with Jaroslav Kulhavý, of the Czech
Republic, in an attempt to win his sixth Cape Epic title.
Sauser will be representing his songo.info charity and sponsor Investec
Asset Management. He and Kulhavý will be racing as team
The pair teamed up successfully before having won the Cape Epic in
2013 as Burry Stander-songo and in 2015 in the colours of
Their bid for the Cape Epic title will be undertaken on Specialized
S-Works Epic mountain bikes, bikes which have come to be synonymous with
the world’s toughest mountain bike stage race.
For Sauser the challenge which drew him out of retirement is to once again stand on the top step of the Absa Cape Epic podium.
In 2016 Sauser took up a coaching and mentoring role with the
Specialized XCO Racing team, in addition to working with the Specialized
engineers on product development.
He offered his wealth of experience to mountain biking’s rising stars
Under-23 world champion Sam Gaze and multiple junior champion Simon
Andreassen, as well as to three-time Cape Epic winner and current XCO world champion, Annika Langvad.
But his famous competitive streak was not satisfied by sharing in the
victories of his protégées and after a highly competitive showing
alongside Gaze at the Wines2Whales, Sauser is confident he can
compete at the highest level.
Sauser explains: “Since my retirement I have kept on riding my bikes,
because it remains my passion. I never did intervals, just much more
riding my trail bikes. During the past weeks after I signed up for a
South African stage race, and raced it with Under-23 world champion Sam Gaze,
I realised that I quickly gained deep shape during my training and I
was happy with my numbers.”
Sauser’s bid for a sixth Cape Epic title will be built on training
blocks in Switzerland and from his second home in Stellenbosch, where he
says he is looking forward to re-joining his old training group.
He will also be racing extensively between now and March with the
Pennypinchers Origin of Trails, the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB
Challenge, the Tankwa Trek, the BestMed Tour of Good Hope and the MTO
Songo Champions Race all on his schedule.
For mountain biking fans and Sauser alike the Attakwas Extreme and the
Tankwa Trek will be key indicators of his progress, as both events are
expecting to attract a world-class field, given their new UCI status.
Along with Sauser’s perennial rival, Karl Platt, the events are
likely to see the full Team Bulls roster and Alban Lakata’s Topeak Ergon
team take part.
Assisting Sauser by providing mechanical and pace making support will be the NAD Pro MTB team of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck.
Bell provided support for Sauser in both the 2014 and 2015 Cape Epics
and had the following to say about riding as Sauser’s back-up team in
the 2017 Cape Epic: “New Africa Developments is extremely proud that its
cycling team (Team NAD Pro MTB) has been selected by Specialized Racing
to join forces with race favourites Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav
Kulhavý for the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. A tough stage race like the ‘Epic’
is very much a team sport and to have any hope of winning the team needs
to not only ensure it has four riders in peak physical condition but
also outstanding technical expertise. We believe Team NAD Pro MTB brings
both these critical attributes to the team.”
For their part Sauser and Kulhavý are excited to have Bell and Combrinck
in their corner again, as the Swiss rider elaborated: “We could not
have asked for a better backup team in Nico and Gawie. They are one of
the most experienced teams; super reliable with big engines! Their
commitment towards us is huge and it will be our best insurance to
perform in the face of the adversity which the Cape Epic inevitably
As one of the Cape Epic’s official development charities, songo.info has
been awarded two entries to the 2017 race and the rising stars of the
songo.info programme are sure to challenge for the Exxaro development
category. songo.info has a history of strong showings in the category
with Sipho Madolo and Azukile Simayile winning it in 2014.
Commenting on the return of Sauser, the Managing Director of Investec
Asset Management, Thabo Khojane, observed that: “When Christoph Sauser
retired, we chose to continue our partnership with the songo.info
charity. The work that Kathy Crabbe and her team do with the community
in Kayamandi is invaluable. Coming out of retirement is incredibly
difficult and risky, as we saw with the two Michaels, Jordan and Phelps.
But we also know that Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavý are world class. We
will be their biggest supporters, as they seek their third title
Sauser is looking forward to the challenges ahead and will draw on the
enthusiasm of the songo.info children to motivate himself through the
long hours of training and racing which lie ahead.
For as much as they are enthused to take up mountain biking by his performances he too is inspired by them.
“It will be a huge inspiration for our kids again to be part of the build-up and cheering us on during the race,” he concluded.