Cape Town - Italy, home to the cycling
calendar’s first Grand Tour of the year, is one of the historical powerhouses
of the sport.
While not as well-represented as their northern neighbours
Switzerland or their fellow Latins, Spain, Italy boasts a formidable line-up of
teams taking part in the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.
There are in fact 17 teams with
an Italian flare to them and 29 individual riders - of which the Trek Selle San
Marco and 7C CBZ Wilier campaigners are undoubtedly the foremost.
Trek Selle San Marco boasts an
all-Italian roster, made up of Damiano Ferraro, Samuele Porro, Fabian
Rabensteiner and Michele Casagrande.
While 7C CBZ Wilier’s line-up is 50% more
cosmopolitan; given that the Columbian Louis Meija joins Johnny Cattaneo and
the Costa Rican Gregory Brenes partners Tony Longo.
The Trek Selle San Marco set-up has
proven capable of upsetting the more heavily fancied teams in the race over the
last three editions of the Absa Cape Epic.
In 2016 Ferraro and Porro finished
third overall and claimed a stage victory in the process. Two years later
Rabensteiner and Casagrande finished sixth, winning the Grand Finale into Val
de Vie. Between the two Trek Selle San Marco teams they have three top 10
finishes in three years and have built a formidable reputation as stage
Speaking about their squad’s goals
for the race Ferraro explained: “We will be present with two competitive
couples. We know well that the Absa Cape Epic always reserves some surprises;
so we will start and then we will see on the fly, obviously we will do our
best. The accumulated experience will help us.”
Farraro and co will need all
that experience if they are to achieve another top finish.
“The opponents will
be as many as ever, probably one of the highest levels ever” the 2016 podium
Like Farraro, Casagrande is also
hoping that he and Rabensteiner can put to good use the lessons they learnt
over the last three years.
“The goal is to improve, trying not to make small
mistakes that in 2018 made us lose minutes in the final general classification”
the rider who finished 15th in th XCM World Championship in his native
Italy last year stated.
“They say that there's more climbs” in the 2019 Absa
Cape Epic route Casagrande continued.
“For me and my team-mates this could be
better, even if all the bikers are accustomed to the climbing.”
Their 7C CBZ Wilier compatriots have
yet to finish an Absa Cape Epic, so the 2019 race holds more unknowns for the
teams. Of the four riders only the Columbian Meija has finished the race, after
Cattaneo dropped out before Stage 5 of the 2018 event. Both Brenes and Longo
make their Absa Cape Epic debuts in 2019.
Longo has been focusing on warm
weather training ahead of his trip to Africa.
“I did a training camp in
December, in Spain, and next week I’ll go to Costa Rica for the final
preparation at warm with also some races,” the 34-year-old recounted.
on the race and the competition he and Brenes will face in the Absa Cape Epic
Longo said: “I’m super motivated to participate at my first Absa Cape Epic, I
know how hard the race is, I’ll hope for a week of luck and of good legs. The
main goal of our team is to hit a podium in a stage and possible to finish in
top 10 of GC. The level will be very high with both the strongest Marathon an
XCO racers. I think that the favourite Team will be Cannondale
(Fumic-Avancini), the last winner Investec-songo-Specialized (Kulhavy-Grotts)
and both Team Bulls squads (Lakata-Platt and Huber-Stiebjahn).”
Other notable Italians in the 2019
Absa Cape Epic field include the Alessandro Petacchi, who won 48 Grand Tour
stages in his stellar career. Petacchi will be riding for the T°RED Factory
Racing with Francesco Chicchi. 7C CBZ Wilier squad meanwhile will also boast a
competitive Dimension Data Masters category squad, as the category’s defending
champion Massimo Debertolis returns to the race alongside Costa Rican Dax
2019 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from March 17-24.