Sebastien Carabin (22) and Kevin van Hoovels (26) are set for this year’s Absa Cape Epic. This year’s race, which takes place from 25 March to 1 April 2012, will once again take 1200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory. The race will kick-off with the prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and will finish at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate.

For Carabin, this will be his first Absa Cape Epic. “I’m quite confident because I’ve been training a lot. It’s been a dream of mine for many years to participate. The level will be high but I don’t want to make myself stress. I know that I can ride fast when I’m in form.” Carabin, even though he has not completed the Absa Cape Epic yet, has accomplished other great results in various races, and has been a member of the Belgium National Team since 2006.

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Kevin Van Hoovels during stage two of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Ceres to Ceres in the Western Cape, South Africa on the 22 March 2010. Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/SPORTZPICS.

Some of his best results include becoming the Belgian U23 cross-country champion for 2010 and 2011, as well as the Benelux U23 cross-country champion 2011. It was a very successful year for Carabin with him also finishing 1st in the U23 and 3rd scratch in the Roc d’Azur, 3rd in the U23 World Cup in Windham (USA) and 6th in the European championship in Dohany (Slovenia).

Van Hoovels on the other hand will be riding his third Absa Cape Epic this year. He says: “It’s an incredible adventure in a fantastic environment. The level is getting higher every year and the tracks are becoming more challenging. I like the atmosphere between the top and recreation riders.” Van Hoovels has many achievements under his belt. To name a few, he was the Belgian U23 cross-country champion in 2006 and the national student mountain bike champion in 2004, 2006 to 2008 as well as the Flemish mountain bike elite champion in 2008. In 2011, he came first at the Beach race Blankenberge and Knokke-Heist, 5th at the Sunshine Cup in Cyprus and 4th overall in the Absa Cape Epic. He also ended off 2011 with a bang coming first at the Belgian national championship marathon and ranked 18th in the UCI cross-country.

This will be the first time Carabin and Van Hoovels will be riding together. “We’re good friends and have the same spirit as we never give up and keep going. I have some more experience and he’s a very motivated rider,” says Van Hoovels. Fortunately for both Carabin and Van Hoovels, they have no injuries that can affect their performance this year, as they are hoping for a podium finish.

“In Belgium, we don’t train much together because we live far apart. We have however done training camps so we know each other’s strong and weak points. In winter I train a lot on endurance. When the season comes closer, I do more intense rides to get used to the high tempo of marathon and cross country races. In terms of eating, I eat healthily and watch my food content,” says Van Hoovels. Carabin, on the other hand, focuses his training mainly on cross country. This acts as his short intense training as well as keeping up his endurance training. “In Belgium, despite the bad weather, I’ve been training hard. I always eat healthily - lots of fruits and vegetables. When I train more, I eat more carbohydrates. It will be important during the Cape Epic to take nutrition recovery after each stage and to eat enough carbohydrates to recover energy for the next stage,” adds Carabin.

In their free time, both racers like to spend time with their girlfriends. “I enjoy being with my girlfriend, being with friends, playing squash, karting, walking amongst nature and just discovering the world,” says Carabin.

In 2012, with new ambitions on the horizons, these riders are looking for the best of the best. Says Carabin: “I would like to be closer to the best elites in the world and to gain experience for the future.” Van Hoovels adds: “I would like to have some good results in the World Cups, the Olympic Games and the World Championships.”

With this being his first Absa Cape Epic, there are many things Carabin is looking forward to. He says: “I’m unsure of the result we may achieve as it’s the first time for me but I’d really like to make top 5. Without any problems, I think we can do that. The hardest part for me will definitely be the distance of each stage, but I trust in our capabilities to obtain a great result!” Carabin adds that every rider must recover well after each stage and have some good support with them in terms of mechanics, food and massage assistance. “Without these, you may struggle in completing the Cape Epic.” Van Hoovels comments: “Good preparation and the right spirit are also key. Never give up!” He believes that as long as you enjoy the race and appreciate the beautiful surroundings, all will go well.

Van Hoovels says that there must not be any pressure on younger athletes. “First do sports for fun and if you are good at a sport continue doing it and maybe you can become a pro one day. But never lose the fun in sports.”

Carabin concludes: “Mountain biking is one of the more beautiful sports in the world and the Cape Epic gives you the chance to discover many things in mountain biking: big adventure, atmosphere, beautiful landscapes and the transcendence of yourself. So whatever you’re riding in, competition or not, try at least once in your life an event such as the Cape Epic… you will not regret it.”

Visit www.cape-epic.com for more information.