German mountain biking legend Sabine Spitz and rising star Yana Belomoina of the Ukraine might make for an unlikely Absa Cape Epic pairing, but between them they have the pedigree to put heat on the dominant combination of Swede Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans of Switzerland.
The Absa Cape Epic Women’s category has been won comfortably in the past two years by the polished Langvad/Kleinhans combination, but in 2016 they will face a number of very determined opponents.
On paper Spitz and Belomoina’s Team Sport for Good should run the favourites close, but Spitz is aware that their lack of experience of the world’s premier mountain bike stage race might be telling.
“It is my first start at the Cape Epic, so the main target has to be to finish in a good way,” Spitz said. “It’s difficult to say more than that because I don’t have any Epic experience.” But she added: “My partner and I normally focus on cross country but if we have a chance to go for the overall, why not? At least we want to snatch a stage win.”
Spitz finished on the podium at the 2004 (bronze), 2008 (gold) and 2012 (silver) Olympic Games and clearly believes her younger partner has the ability to get similar results: “She is young, hungry, very talented and a very strong climber. She had a very strong season and with top results under her belt she got a lot of self-confidence. I’m pretty sure we will see more top races from her in the future.”
Spitz said she had planned to race the 2015 Absa Cape Epic but could not settle on an ideal teammate: “For the 2016 Epic it now looks perfect. I think we are a very interesting combination, with one of the youngest and maybe one of the oldest participants,” Spitz laughed.
Given that this will be her first Absa Cape Epic, what does she know about the race? “You have to be physically very well prepared; it puts an enormous strain on both rider and bike; it requires that there is harmony between teammates; it’s very popular, not only in South Africa but also in Germany; and it’s very well organised”.
“From what I have learned so far about the route it all looks very good and interesting,” Spitz added. “There is a lot of climbing and with the typically rough surfaces it will be very hard.”
She said her training schedule had been going exactly to plan, partly thanks to the mild winter in Germany.