The Absa Cape Epic, now in its ninth year, has become one of the most important events on the global mountain biking calendar. As the world premier team stage mountain bike race on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) calendar, the race annually hosts the world's most accomplished and legendary mountain bike riders.

Udo Boelts (45, of Germany) will be riding in the mixed category for the first time with current Swiss marathon mountain bike champion and multiple Transalp winner Milena Landtwing (30, of Switzerland) as team Centurion Vaude.

Boelts took part in twelve consecutive Tours de France (from 1992 t0 2003), arriving in Paris on every occasion, both of which feats are German records. His best placing in the hardest road stage race in the world was in 1994, when he finished in ninth place. In 1996 and 1997, he was an important helper of teammates and eventual winners of the Tour, Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich. During the 1997 Tour, he was noted for the words he shouted to Ullrich when the latter was about to crack: Quäl dich, du Sau! (Force yourself, you sod!). Some of his greatest victories include three German road national titles (1990-1995-1999), the Clásica de San Sebastián in 1996 or a stage win at the 1992 Giro d'Italia. He also is the only German rider to have won the Dauphiné Libéré, which he did in 1997, a year in which he was also fourth in the World Cycling Championships.

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Udo Boelts leads Carsten Bresser as the leading Masters climb a hill during stage 4 (Time trial) of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the Worcester Gymnasium in Worcester, South Africa on the 31 March 2011.Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Says Landtwing: ”I’m very excited about my participation in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. For Europeans, this race is very early in the season, so of course there is a level of uncertainty. That’s why I will participate with care, attention and great respect.” On the other hand, Landtwing’s partner, Udo Boelts, is not new to this race as this year will be his fifth Absa Cape Epic. “I like this race because it’s perfectly organised. I also enjoy the beautiful landscape as it really is something special,” adds Boelts. Landtwing is very excited to be riding with someone such as Boelts. “Udo is a very experienced rider with a lot of mental strength and stamina. Both of us have a great deal of experience in long races and I believe this is very helpful in making us a strong team,” says Landtwing.

Landtwing and Boelts never train together. Instead, they do individual training. Boelts, who has no special diet, trains three times a week on the bike and runs four times a week. Landtwing trains in alternative sports because of the weather conditions as a result of living in the Swiss Mountains. “I’m 2050 meters above sea level, so we have a lot of snow this time of year. I have to train in alternative sports such as ski touring, cross-country skiing, running and working out. From time to time, I travel to Italy to ride on my road bike for distance training.” In terms of diet, Landtwing also has no special diet and just eats very healthy and well-balanced food.

In her free time, Landtwing enjoys being in nature, mountaineering and meeting up with friends. When doing none of that, a good book is always enjoyed. As for Boelts, he simply enjoys spending time with his family in the free time that he manages to fit in. As 2012 is a new year for new adventures, both riders have their own personal goal they would like to achieve this year. Says Boelts: “I would like to be able to collect a lot of firewood from my forest and to be able to run with Carsten Bresser in the Swiss Alpine Marathon.” Landtwing also has similar plans in terms of marathons. “This year’s highlights will be the Bike Transalp and the Tour Grischa, all of which leads to the World Championships.”

Boelts is looking forward to seeing all ‘the friendly people again at the Absa Cape Epic’. As he finds the first stage the most difficult, Boelts always makes sure he is properly prepared. “My advice to young athletes is take your time and take small steps at the beginning of a career.”

With the ‘perfect organisation’ being his fondest memory of the race, Boelts believes that a strong physique and a good partner are essential in completing the Absa Cape Epic successfully. Adds Landtwing: “You must also be strong mentally and have a very determined attitude.” In terms of confidence in stage wins or overall podium finishes, Landtwing mentions that ‘it is our goals to keep up with the best and to be strong contenders’.

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Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts of Team Juwi cool and calm during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Oak Valley to Lourensford, South Africa on 3 April 2011. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

As a first timer to the Absa Cape Epic, Landtwing feels it is not easy to give good advice to other participants. “In general, at long races, it’s important not to start too fast, so you have enough power for all the other stages. Another important factor is to drink enough and most importantly, have strong relations and cohesion between your team members.”

To end if off simply, Boelts concludes: “Start slow, step up the pace in the middle of the race and give everything you’ve got at the end.”

From 27 March to 3 April, all eyes will be on the Western Cape as the world's top riders vie for position in what is billed to be the most competitive event in the race’s history. Covering a distance of 707km with 14 550m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.

Visit www.cape-epic.com for more details and to see where the riders are online during the race.

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