The favourites on the starting line will be 2014 winners Ariane Kleinhans and Anika Langvad of Team RECM Specialized. The Swiss/Danish duo won comfortably last year in spite of some serious mechanical issues on Stage 1 and, besides their abundant natural talent, are now an experienced and well-balanced pairing.
This year, however, they will be pitted against a woman who might be the most decorated mountain biker of all time, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå. The Norwegian legend has won just about every title that exists in mountain biking, including an Olympic gold medal and nine world championships, but this will be her first Absa Cape Epic. She will be partnered in Team World Bicycle Relief by Switzerland’s Kathrin Stirnemann, the current cross country eliminator world champion and an accomplished competitor herself.
Another team that will be eyeing the top step of the podium will be the British/Slovenian combination of Sally Bigham and Blaža Klemenčič in Team Sellaronda/Topeak-Ergon. Bigham has won the Absa Cape Epic twice while Klemenčič raced in both the Beijing and London Olympics cross country events, but is really a marathon specialist.
Also near the front will be another two-time Absa Cape Epic winner Esther Süss, racing with Belgian marathon champion and 2014 Cape Pioneer Trek winner Alice Pirard in team Meerendal/Wheeler. Süss, of Switzerland, has won multiple world championships and will be desperate to put a disappointing 2014 race – where she and Bigham finished second – behind her. Süss recently won the Women’s Category of the inaugural Snow Epic in Switzerland.
Dark horses in this category will be Team Meerendal C’dale’s Dutch/Swiss pairing of Milena Landtwing and Hielke Elferink, who finished fourth together last year.
The leading South African in the field will probably be the current national marathon champion Robyn de Groot, who has teamed up with Jennie Stenerhag riding for Ascendis Health. The latter, the Swedish national marathon champion who lives in South Africa, finished third in the 2014 Absa Cape Epic.