Cue Kate Courtney.

More known for her XC prowess, Courtney will be tackling her first stage race ever, in Africa, at the Absa Cape Epic.

Kate Courtney. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.

Langvad’s notable absence from the 2017 edition of the race was due to the fact that she decided to focus on completing her Dentistry studies in Denmark. Since Annika last competed in the Absa Cape Epic, she has won the 2016 XCO World Championships, the 2017 XCM World Championships, won 3 UCI World Cup races, finished 11th at the Rio Olympic Games, and is the current XCO Champion of Denmark. All of which adds a considerable amount of weight to her bid for the 2018 Absa Cape Epic title.

Annika Langvad. Photo credit: JB Badenhorst.

That has made the choice of partner for the Absa Cape Epic an all-important one, a decision not to be taken lightly.

Kate Courtney had a sublime 2017; US Elite XCO Champion, winning 4 of the 6 rounds at the U23 UCI World Cup, the U23 UCI World Cup Overall, and earned a silver medal at U23 XCO World Championships in Cairns, fighting back from 22nd to 2nd place after a crash on the first lap. Added to this, Courtney also completed her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology at Stanford University last year.

2018 is Courtney’s first year racing in the Elite category and will be her first year at the iconic and world famous, Absa Cape Epic.

For the past 10 years, Specialized has supported by fielding a UCI men’s team racing for this inspiring organisation. This year, Langvad and Courtney will be the first women’s team to race under the banner of Investec-Songo-Specialized.

Two-time winner and current Czech XCO National Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy will once again race in the colours of Investec-Songo-Specialized, this year forming a new partnership with the current US XCO National Champion, Howard Grotts.

Jaroslav Kulhavy (front). Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.

Grotts rode in support of Christoph Sauser and Kulhavy in the 2017 Absa Cape Epic and has had insight into what it takes to contest for the overall honours under the guidance of the well-seasoned Cape Epic veterans.

Grotts (25), born and raised in the Colorado Mountains, thrives in challenging mountainous conditions at extreme altitudes. Howard has proved this with his impressive win at the Leadville 100 MTB in 2017, the 100 miler (160km) one day race, which is raced at an average altitude of 3,500m above sea level, speaking to his stamina and tenacity.

Filling the shoes of Sauser will be no mean feat, but with the experience and strength of Kulhavy, this pairing intends to make their presence felt at the sharp end of the race.

Howard Grotts. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.