Max Knox (24, of SA) and Todd Wells (36, of the USA) of Team Songo-Specialized are gearing up for the challenging 2012 Absa Cape Epic, which takes place from 25 March to 1 April. The race will once again take 1200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory, kicking off with the prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and finishing at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate.

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Max Knox during stage six of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race between Worcester and Oak Valley in the Western Cape, South Africa on the 26 March 2010.Photo by Sven Martin/SPORTZPICS

This year will be Knox’s fifth Absa Cape Epic and the highlight of his year. Knox will be riding with Wells, who is a first-timer to the event. “I’m very excited and motivated for this year’s event. I think because we share a common passion and love for the sport of mountain bike racing, we will pull together and bring out a good performance,” says Knox. Wells adds his thoughts on it being his first time. “I’m very excited to complete the Absa Cape Epic. I’ve followed the race for many years and listened to endless stories from Burry and Sauser about it. I’ve never done a mountain bike race of more than 4 stages or a team race, so it’s a whole new experience for me.”

Even though this is the first time Wells is participating in the Absa Cape Epic, he boasts many great career highlights, specialising in cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing in the United States. He is three times cyclo-cross national champion and two times US national short track cross-country champion. Last year, he became the La Ruta de los Conquistadors champion and is the current and two times US national cross-country champion.

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Max Knox during stage four of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Ceres to Worcester in the Western Cape, South Africa on the 24 March 2010.Photo by Sven Martin/SPORTZPICS

In 2010, Knox won the African leader jersey in the Absa Cape Epic and finished in 10th place overall, and won the Barberton marathon. Last year, Knox yet again, came first in the Barberton UCI C2 marathon and received other various top honours such as in the Das Auto mountain bike race, the Karkloof mountain bike race, as well as coming 3rd in the MTN National Series Hilton and Tulbach Marathons and 4th in the Attakwas UCI C2 Marathon. This year so far, Knox has come fourth in the Barberton UCI C2 Marathon and 2nd in the Sabie World Cup Marathon.

With regards to training, Wells and Knox have not trained together due to them living in different countries. Knox trains for 30 hours a week, eats strictly vegetarian and avoids all wheat, alcohol and simple sugars. Adds Wells: “I’m focused on the World Cup right now but have just finished a big base period that I do every winter. I still have some big miles in my legs and should have enough intensity as well by the time the Cape Epic starts. My diet is pretty much open other than trying not to eat too much. When I train a lot, I’m always hungry. On the bike, I eat a lot to stay fuelled up.”

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Max Knox of DCM2 leads the chase group of riders 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 Nick Muzik/SPORTZPICS

At the moment, Wells and Knox are fortunate not to have any injuries that could affect their performance. Knox’s goal and objective for this year is to achieve stage wins and/or an overall podium finish in the Absa Cape Epic. For Wells, not knowing what to expect, his main objectives are to help Burry and Sauser win, finish the race himself and hope for a result for himself and Max.

In his free time, Knox attends a cell group and plays in the church choir and for this year, he would like to become the World Marathon Champion. Wells is hoping to obtain some podium finishes at the World Cups, retain his national championship title, make the team and have a great race at the London Olympics. “In my free time when I have, I love to play golf and hang out with my wife Meg and dog Winston. I also enjoy running and messing around on the dirt jumps.”

With this being Well’s first Absa Cape Epic, he is unsure of what to expect. “I’m looking forward to the whole experience. I’m a rookie at the Cape Epic and just looking forward to seeing everything for myself after hearing so much about it. I’m looking forward to some time chatting in the group as in most cross-country mountain bike events, it’s full on from the gun so you don’t get much time to talk. I’m also looking forward to exploring the trail and seeing the tip of South Africa from my mountain bike. Finally, I hope I can play a part in delivering Burry, Sauser and SONGO SPECIALIZED another victory.”

Wells adds that determination is probably the most important ingredient for every Absa Cape Epic rider. “Since I’ve never completed the Absa Cape Epic, I should be the one looking for advice. I know from previous stage races I’ve done that in addition to the normal physical preparation you do for an event, having great equipment like a Specialized S-Works 29er Epic in perfect working condition and good support is key,” says Wells.

Knox says as long as you have enough water, you wear a helmet at all times, have a good bicycle and a good partner, you will be all set for the Absa Cape Epic.

He concludes: “I’m looking forward to fighting it out with the world’s best riders!”

From 25 March to 1 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 781km with 16 300m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.

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