Cape Town - The Czech Express, as Jaroslav
Kulhavý is fondly known, is uniquely suited for the trials of the Absa Cape
The need for a combination of power on the rolling transitional phases of
the race, with explosive climbing and superb technical abilities seems tailored
to the defending champion’s skill set.
His partner, Howard Grotts, excels most
meanwhile, later in the race and when the climbs become brutally steep.
2019 Absa Cape Epic route then plays perfectly into the combined strengths of
the defending champions.
Stages 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the race
provide opportunities aplenty for Kulhavý to lay down a sustained barrage of
watts. While Stages 4, 5, 6 and 7 all feature exceptionally steep climbs, ideal
for Grotts’ lithe riding style.
Unlike in 2018 though, when Kulhavý and Grotts
won the Absa Cape Epic without a support team, they will have
Investec-songo-Specialized stable-mates for the 2019 race.
In Simon Andreassen they have one of
the sport’s brightest young talents, who will be learning his trade as a stage
racer with the sage Christoph Sauser alongside him.
The pressure is largely off
Andreassen, as the aim for the 21-year-old is to glean wisdom from the 12-time finisher; who is two decades his senior. Andreassen and Sauser will be
aided in their support role by the Specialized Foundation-Spur Schools League team
of Alan Hatherly and Sam Gaze.
In four starts Kulhavý has three
victories and one second place finish on his Absa Cape Epic palmarès. After
sealing his third title in 2018 he alluded to the fact that he was eager to
target the record of five which is mentor, Sauser, holds with Karl Platt.
Records can only come with race victories, however, and the 2012 Olympic gold medallist is focused only upon performing in this year’s race.
is going well” Kulhavý started.
He then elaborated: “Training for the Absa Cape
Epic is very similar to my normal training; just with more of a focus on riding
in the mountains. The 2019 route looks good. There is more elevation on every
stage than last year. That can be good for us, especially for ‘lightweight’ Howie (Grotts). I’m also looking forward to the many singletracks; they are going to
Grotts meanwhile will be putting the
experience he gleaned from winning the 2018 race to good use this time out.
“Last year's Absa Cape Epic was a huge learning experience for me. I'd already
had one Cape Epic under my belt at that point, but being at the front of the
race added a whole other dimension to the race” Grotts confided.
“Even though I
felt prepared physically, dealing with mechanicals efficiently and staying calm
under pressure were the most significant lessons I learnt, in the early part of
the race. It was also incredibly helpful to have Jaro (Kulhavý) pace our
efforts and decide where the best time was to try to gain time or save energy,”
the American concluded.
As defending champions much of the
pre-race attention will be on the Investec-songo-Specialized team.
Kulhavý’s experience and Grotts’ growing confidence that weight will not rest
too heavily on their shoulders. Especially as they once again have Sauser’s
astute guidance to call upon from within the race, if need be.