The 2012 Absa Cape Epic will once again welcome Ivonne Kraft (41, Baden, Germany) who will be racing with Elisabeth Brandau (26, Stuttgard, Germany) as team Notebooksbilliger.de. 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.

Participating in her sixth Absa Cape Epic, Kraft says that she loves the heat and the beautiful scenery, as well as the challenge to finish the race with a partner. “Participating this year with Lisa (Elizabeth) Brandau is like a dream come true and I’m really proud of it. We wanted to race together in 2009, but she had to finish her studies first, so I did it with Lisa’s teammate Lukas Kubis. I’ll do my best to be the best partner I can be. We’re a good team because we trust each other. I want to provide Lisa with experience in stage racing – she’s got a lot of energy and she’s absolutely hungry to learn more and reach her goals,” says Kraft.

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Overall ladies leaders and second for the day Hannele Steyn-Kottze and Ivonne Kraft during stage three of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Ceres to Ceres in the Western Cape, South Africa on the 23 March 2010. Photo by Sven Martin/SPORTZPICS.

In turn, this will be Brandau’s first Absa Cape Epic. She says: “It’s an amazing feeling that I can start my Cape Epic memories and I’m feeling great. I wanted to do it every year, but it just never fit into my calendar. Ivonne was the person who helped me to do my first World Cups. She’s very patient with me, knows me really well and has so much experience. So I’m delighted to participate in my first Cape Epic with her – I’m sometimes not able to think during races, so I need someone who can do it for me.”

Racing towards a podium finish, Kraft says she realises that anything can happen. “We’ll give it our best. The most important thing is for us to stay healthy and to finish each stage together. We’ll race as a team and hopefully achieve our goal.” Brandau adds that her first goal is to complete the race without “dying first”, seeing the event as an opportunity to have fun and get some training for future events. “I’m working towards the Olympic Games. But of course we’re going to give it our best and work towards a podium finish. I’m also going to gain a lot of experience for next year’s event.”

Although they sometimes ride together, Kraft says that they mainly train together mentally. She explains: “We talk often and we know about each other’s strong and weak points; we also know how to support each other.” Brandau says that her training programme is easy, stating: “Firstly, I need to have fun riding and secondly I have to listen to my body. During winter I do basic training on the road or skiing, and gym till January. Thereafter I spend more time on my bike. In February some of the races start as the season begins. My diet is getting better – I try to not eat so many sweet things.”

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Ivonne Kraft of team Sludge Ladies 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 21 March 2010. Photo by Ron Gaunt/SPORTZPICS

Kraft’s advice for other participants is to “race hard, but stay fair to your body.” She believes the most important ingredient to successfully complete the Absa Cape Epic is to “start smart, stay smart and finish smart together with your partner. Never fight with your partner. Forgive your partner everything that could make you angry and also trust one another. After all, it’s a team race.” Brandau says that everybody is different. “However, the body always needs water and sleep. For regeneration you have to look after yourself and follow a good diet. One should not try to get skinnier when you’re participating in stage races,” she says.

For young athletes that see her as a role model, Kraft would like to send the following message: “Don’t take it too seriously as that won’t make you happy. Have fun because it’s the best feeling in the world to do what you love to do. The sport was invented to enjoy life and to learn more about your body. Winning is sometimes the reward for following your own way.” Brandau’s message in turn is to “have fun and look around so you can learn as much about the world as you can. It will help with your brain and body. Be yourself!”

For Kraft, the first stage is always the most difficult as she arrives from a cold winter. “I’m looking forward to enjoying each new day – first you hate the stage while you’re fighting to finish it and then you love it after winning the challenge against fatigue. Crossing the final finish line is always a great moment. You’re happy to successfully complete the event, but absolutely sad that it’s over too.” Brandau agrees that the first stage is the toughest and to hold back in order to preserve strength for the rest of the race. “In the end it’s your brain’s strength. Everybody will be feeling their legs. When I cross that final finish line I know I’ll forget about all my pains and just be happy and think about how I can improve the following year,” she says.

Whenever she has a free moment, Kraft uses it to train as she still has a full time career as well. Her other goals for 2012 include enjoying more stage racing, participating in some cross country races and finishing with the best possible results. Brandau participates in many sports and also enjoys spending time with her family and dog.

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