Fumic and Fontana finished fifth overall that year but challenged strongly on the shorter stages.

In March Fumic will be back in the Absa Cape Epic field, this time with Brazil’s Henrique Avancini (Team Cannondale Factory Racing), another regular on the cross country circuit who will be doing his first Absa Cape Epic.

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Both will have their eyes on the Olympic Games in Rio later in the year but will target the Prologue and one or two of the shorter stages for wins.

As Fumic, 33, said: “Hey, after all it is a race… and when the gun goes, you all know what happens.”

27-year-old Avancini said: “It's a big year with Rio Olympics just around the corner in my home town, and I see the Cape Epic as a very unique opportunity to get even more inspired for Olympics.

“But hey, we are racers. We want to do our best every time when we show up at a start line, so do not count us out.”

ccs-62657-0-87868500-1453796743.jpgHenrique Avancini.
Fumic has for several years been one of the outstanding performers on the cross country circuit and might fancy his chances of a medal in Rio. Avancini meanwhile has been building his reputation: last year he was snapped up by the Cannondale team and won the Brazilian national championship. As a team they certainly have the skills and speed to challenge the favourites, particularly on the shorter distances.

“I’ve known Henrique since he joined the Cannondale Team last year and I had met him on the circuit before,” Fumic said. “We travelled together nearly half of the year around the world and I got to know him quite well. Ave – his nickname – is a very strong, disciplined and focussed rider, which I hope I can benefit from. I know that Ave and I will have a good time at the Epic and hope to do well in some selected stages.”

The Brazilian was similarly enthusiastic about his teammate: “Mr Fumic is Mr Fumic! When he goes, he goes! That's it. It's going to be great riding with Mannie. He has a great flow, experience and power, but above all he’s a great guy and partner. That is highly important when you're riding as a duo … he knows how to keep a good vibe. I cannot wait.”

Fumic said the course reminded him of the 2013 route, but “I like the fact that it is more technical and a bit shorter, which doesn’t mean it will be easier. I am happy to ride my second Epic and am already looking forward to it.”

Avancini added: “The route seems to be amazing, with a lot of technical sections. I really believe that this mix of endurance with intense technical sections is the perfect combination for an open and exciting race.”

Fumic has been training in Stellenbosch already this year and said he was feeling strong and looking forward to the challenge.

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Asked about how his training was going, Avancini said: “Perfect! The best pre-season I ever had. I took a good break after the cross country season and am fresh for big things to come.”

“I always wanted to do the Epic,” he added. “I really enjoy stage races … usually I do quite well. When I joined Cannondale Factory Racing last season everybody was still speaking about the 2013 experience they had … I got inspired quite a bit. It is cool to be doing it with Mannie and having a crew around me that has done it before.”

Asked what he was expecting after having raced in 2013, Fumic said: “I’m looking forward to a great bike adventure with lots of trails and great views… a lot of fun on and off the bike and meeting interesting bike addicts in a nice atmosphere.”