Cape Town - When the powerful diesel engine that
drives the Jaroslav Kulhavy express leaves the station, you had better be ready
or you will be left watching in awe, according to his new partner, Howard
Grotts of the United States
will team up with Czech Kulhavy, the two-time Absa Cape Epic winner, replacing
Christoph Sauser on the Investec-Songo-Specialized team.
American is highly regarded as a climber and believes Kulhavy’s ability to
drive the bunch hard could give them the edge this year.
“Jaro is an incredible rider with a
huge diesel engine - pretty much perfect for a race like the Absa Cape Epic
where being able to sit at a consistently high pace for four to five hours
every day is the name of the game,” said Grotts.
“I’m generally known for my
climbing, so the route's 44 000 feet (13 530m) of ascending should suit me well.
And for everything in between I’m just planning on hanging onto Jaro’s wheel
and sitting in the draft as best as I can!”
Grotts rode his first Absa Cape Epic
in 2017 as the back-up team in support of Kulhavy and Sauser, the latter having
come out of retirement to attempt to be the first to win the Untamed African
MTB Race six times. He was forced to finish alone after his partner, Paolo
Caesar Montoya, withdrew after the Stage 5. The United States champion is a
"I expect (2018) to be a whole lot
harder, for one thing,” said Grotts.
"But honestly, I’m just going to approach
it day by day. I’ve begun my training earlier this year in preparation for the
race and I know that if things fall into place I’m capable of riding at the
pace necessary to be in the lead bunch. Doing that day after day is the big
question of course, but we’ll see.”
“The course changes every year, but
I think racing the Absa Cape Epic last year gave me a good feel for the type of
terrain that we’ll be covering. I also got a good feel for the nutrition and
recovery needs at a stage race, which seemed almost as important as the
on-the-bike work. I have a general idea of what the pace will be at the front
of the race so it shouldn’t seem overwhelming once we actually get down to it.”
Kulhavy, the 2012 Olympic gold
medallist, believes that Grotts has what it takes to step into the shoes left
behind by Sauser.
"Howie is probably the best rider in
US for cross-country and marathons right now,” said Kulhavy.
“He is still young
but he is an experienced rider. Last year he did the Absa Cape Epic as back-up
so he has experience of the event, which is important. Of course, Christoph was
a big matador and a legend of the race but Howie can be really strong now, and
in the future.”
“Last year the race was super-fast
and it all changed so much. There were many cross-country riders so the stages
were more intense, it was really different than the usual ‘marathon’ tempo and
that caused problems for a lot of the marathon riders. I like the 2018 route.
There are more flats and a lot more single trails. I mean, it looks better for
me than 2017. The time trial will ensure bigger gaps between the teams. I think
it is good for the race and a very interesting move by the organisers. My
preparation is almost the same as for last year, perhaps a little bit more
intense and dynamic to set up for the Epic World Cup in Stellenbosch. I
want my best cross-country shape to come more in April-May but the season will
be long and hard.”
* The 2018 Absa Cape Epic mountain
bike stage race takes place from March 18-25 and the much anticipated route
can be viewed here