This year will be Blignaut and Stander’s first Absa Cape Epic together. Says Blignaut: “This will be my first Absa Cape Epic. Cherise Stander, who participated in last year’s event, asked me to join her – I’m honoured to be her partner.” Stander has returned on a quest for glory. She adds: “Putting your body through the ultimate challenge and seeing how far you can push yourself has brought me back to the Absa Cape Epic this year.”
Stander has placed her future goals on competing in the South African Mountain Bike Championship and the MTN series. With achievements such as being the SA Elite Marathon Mountain Biking Champ (2012), winner of the 2010 Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, winner of the Ladies category in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour (2008, 2011, 2014) and SA Elite Road Champ (2008, 2010), Stander and her partner are a team to look out for in the Mixed category in this year’s race.
Blignaut is a highly respected triathlon athlete who does not back down to a challenge. He won the 2012 ITU SA Cross Triathlon Championship in Bloemfontein and placed second at the 2011 ITU Africa U23 Triathlon Championship in Mapoto, making him a serious podium contender.
According to Stander, herself and her partner are really busy, so they do not get to train together as often as they like, but when the opportunity presents itself they take it. There are various reasons why they make such a good team. Says Blignaut: “Communication with your partner, pacing yourself and eating and drinking are the most important ingredients to completing the Absa Cape Epic successfully. We train about three times a week if possible.”
Stander feels it is going to be an extremely tough route, which will test all aspects. She explains: “The route will not only test bikers’ mental, but physical strength as well.” Blignaut is really excited about his first Absa Cape Epic and feels he is going to love every day of the race. He adds: “I don’t know how it feels to cross the finish line, so I look forward to it.”
According to both Blignaut and Stander, mountain biking is part of their lifestyle. Stander adds: “Riding for team RE:CM and working for Specialized is what I do.”
When asked what Blignaut would like to achieve in 2014 other than competing in the Absa Cape Epic, he says he would like to win the SA Cross Triathlon Championship and finish in the top 3 at the World Triathlon Championships.