Cape Town - The Absa Cape Epic men’s category is
gearing up for a veritable clash of the titans as world champions, national
champions and Olympic medalists prepare to go head-to-head on Table Mountain
This year’s Cape Epic has one
of the most competitive men’s fields ever assembled with a host of world-class
mountain bikers all hoping to give the overall podium a proper crack.
champions, Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann of Scott-Sram, will be well
aware of the impending teams looking to usurp their dominance at the top of the
A brief analysis of Schurter’s performance at the Epic World Cup last
Saturday suggests his recent training regime has been tailored more around
endurance than intensity - validating Scott-Sram’s intentions at defending the
The Swiss superstar was in high spirits ahead of his title defence and
expressed his relief that last week’s Epic World Cup winner, Sam Gaze, isn’t
racing the Absa Cape Epic this year.
“The Epic World Cup was an awesome
event and the racing against Sam (Gaze) was a great battle. I’m glad he’s not racing
the Cape Epic on Sunday,” laughed Schurter.
He went on to pertinently
point out his intentions and ambitions for the race: “We (Scott-Sram) have
prepared for every stage this year and we showed last year we can do it. I’m
looking forward to every stage and Matthias and I have a good team spirit.”
Canyon Topeak’s Alban Lakata has
raced the Cape Epic eight times and while the overall victory has always
eluded him, he feels this year might very well be the one.
“I think I’ve
prepared well but this year I’ve done some things a little differently than the
past. I think we can get to the top step of the podium. We’re in top shape,”
As a genuine marathon racer and reigning XCM world champion, Lakata
is well versed in the type of racing and conditions teams will confront over
the next eight days - particularly the first four back-to-back 100+km stages.
He finished up with a bold warning statement for his rivals: “The marathon
racers are going to show the cross-country riders how to race the Cape
Amid the heated banter however, team
BULLS appear to be flying under the radar.
Five-time men’s category champion,
Karl Platt, is feeling positive ahead of the Untamed African MTB race following
a few months of uncertainty caused by a broken hip he sustained during training
in November last year.
Having turned 40 on Wednesday, the affable German
joked that maybe he and Urs Huber should race in the Dimension Data Masters
category come Sunday.
On a serious note he assured his rivals that he’s back to
his best and ready to give 2018 a serious go.
“I had great time at home with my
family and have fully recovered,” said Platt.
“I started training in January
and feel I’m in a good way - I had a good Cape Town Cycle Tour and put in some
efforts to test the legs. I’m ready.”
The BULLS have entered three teams
proving the team’s long-term outlook on developing the next wave of stars.
have a young team here (BULLS 3) and they need to learn a lot from these big
races. This year we have another role for our second team (BULLS 2) and Simon
Stiebjahn and Tim Boehme can go free and do whatever they want.”
The Absa African men’s special
jersey - a race within the race - will once again add another dynamic to men’s
field with several teams vying for the win.
While PYGA Euro Steel’s Philip Buys
and Matthys Beukes have bigger fish to fry this year - namely the overall
podium, their support team of Phillimon Sebona and Julian Jessop will have a
genuine shot at securing red.
“It was a great experience racing with Julian at
Tankwa Trek and the team has invested a lot in us and we feel we can compete at
this level,” said Sebona.
“The Absa African special jersey gives us a big
opportunity which is what we’ve been targeting. It will help us improve our
skills and we can go for it.” Sebona and Jessop’s biggest threats - besides
their senior team-mates - will come from NAD MTB’s Nico Bell and Matt Beers and
the Silverback-Volvo partnership of Jaco Pelser and Shaun-Nick Bester.
Who’s going to wear the yellow
jersey on Stage 1 in Robertson on Monday, March 19?
Well, it’s too tight to call
at this point.
The Prologue course certainly favours the cross-country
specialists such as Cannondale Factory Racing, Investec Songo Specialized and
Scott-Sram, but the BULLS duo of Platt and Huber as well as the PYGA Euro Steel
combination of Buys and Beukes may very well pose an outside threat come
Sunday, not to mention Lakata and Kristian Hynek who are racing with only
one goal in mind - winning.
One thing is for sure: this is going to be one of
the closely fought prologues in recent history.