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  1. Credit: Andrew McFadden. Absa Cape Epic (managing director Michael Flinn) said: “After our initial and highly successful event this year the UCI has requested that we sign a two-year commitment. We have decided to aim rather for the 2020 and 2021 events,” said Flinn. “That gives us time to secure the sort of financial backing we would require to host events of the standard that we demand of ourselves. In fact, our team is already working on new plans.” Flinn added that the Grandstand Management team which organises the Absa Cape Epic was very busy preparing the 16th edition of the Untamed African MTB Race - “And of course we are already busy with our planning and preparations for next year’s Absa Cape Epic.” ‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of spectators that showed up for the 2018 World Cup event, the overwhelming number of people who supported us from afar and our incredible sponsors, crew, media and riders who put on an Epic show.’ added Flinn. Henrique Avancini glides over Pickup Sticks. Credit: Ewald Sadie
  2. Manuel Fumic's Cannondale Scalpel-Si. Manuel Fumic and Maxime Marotte are the national champions of Germany and France respectively. To celebrate this success, Cannondale has custom painted their Scalpel-Si frames with each rider's national colours over a black base. Maxime Marotte's Cannondale Scalpel-Si. The Cannondale team is sponsored by Shimano so, as you would expect, the drivetrain is a full Shimano affair. The shifters, cassettes, derailleurs, and cranks all coming from the XTR stable with the chain being borrowed from the Dura-Ace road catalogue. The brake set and rotors (180 mm front; 160 mm rear) are also Shimano's range-topping XTR. Maxime Marotte prefers Look pedals. The team uses One Components chainguides. The one anomaly is Fumic's unbranded 38 tooth chainring where Marotte has a standard Shimano XTR chainring. The team explained that Shimano does not currently make a compatible single chainring bigger than 36 teeth, so they've had to make a plan for Fumic's preferred 38T gearing. Fumic's blacked out 38 tooth chainring. The Shimano XTR cranks have undergone the Stages treatment with a power meter embedded in the left crank arm. This data is supplied to a Stages Dash computer mounted on the handlebar. Fumic's left Stages XTR crank and XTR pedal. And Stages Dash. In the cockpit, personal preference sees some variation. Most notably the seat posts with Marotte electing a KS LEV CI with carbon body and lever providing 65 mm of vertical travel while Fumic choosing a lighter rigid carbon post from Enve. Both riders sit on a Prologo Dimension Nack saddle with a 143 mm width. Maxime's KS Lev CI dropper seatpost and lever. Fumic's handlebar and stem configuration is slightly bigger with a 730 mm Enve bar and 90 mm stem versus Marotte's 720 Enve bar and 80 mm stem. There is also a difference in pedal preference with Fumic clipping into a pair of Shimano XTR pedals and Marotte using Look's X-Track pedals. The front suspension is uniquely Cannondale with a Lefty 2.0 Carbon. The rear travel is controlled by an unlabelled RockShox shock. The team take their suspension set up seriously, sending the forks to the specialist Lefty tuning company Eighty-Aid in Europe for servicing after each World Cup race. Enve M50 carbon rims are laced to a DT Swiss 240 rear hub with a Lefty hub doing duty in the front. The team use Schwalbe tyres, choosing the Thunder Burt 2.25" for the Stellenbosch course. Fumic uses Enve's rim strip to further protect the tyres from damaging snake bites. Specification List: FrameCannondale Scalpel-Si (Size medium) ForkLefty 2.0 carbon ShockRockShox RimsEnve M50 HubsFront: Lefty / Rear: DT Swiss 240 TyresSchwalbe Thunder Burt 2.25 HandlebarEnve carbon (Fumic: 730mm / Marotte: 720mm) GripsFumic: ESI Grips / Marotte: Prologo StemExtraLite (Fumic: 90mm / Marotte: 80mm) HeadsetLefty SeatpostFumic: Enve carbon / Marotte: KS Lev CI SaddlePrologo Dimension Nack BrakesShimano XTR Brake RotorsShimano XTR (180mm / 160mm) ShiftersShimano XTR Rear DerailleurShimano XTR CassetteShimano XTR (Fumic 11-42 / Marotte 11-40) CranksShimano XTR with Stages powermeter ChainringFumic: Unbranded / Marotte: Shimano XTR ChainShimano Dura-Ace PedalsFumic: Shimano XTR / Marotte: Look X-Track Race Carbon Bike ComputerStages Dash WeightFumic: 10.1 kg / Marotte: 10.2 kg
  3. Manuel Fumic is no stranger to South African audiences with memorable performances in the Absa Cape Epic while Maxime Marotte has been a solid podium performer on the international XCO circuit for a number of years. We tracked down their race bikes at the team house ahead of the Stellenbosch World Cup. View full article
  4. Cherie is riding the Head Trenton carbon hardtail. Head might not be brand readily associated with cycling but with a local distribution deal recently signed, we might start seeing more on our road and trails. Cherie's bike was the first Trenton we've encounter: the defined lines, recessed seat post clamp, and beefy bottom bracket catching our eyes. Cherie entrusts her gearing to a SRAM X01 Eagle system with XX1 crank arms connected by a KMC X12 chain. Cherie's top cap gives her extra motivation while cockpit is set up for "Go fast!" mode with the bearing cap removed and no spacers in sight and a negative angle stem. The SR Suntour sponsored teams mostly selected the Axon Werx fork with carbon lower legs for the Stellenbosch World Cup. Cherie picked Schwalbe's Rocket Ron tyre to cut through the Coetzenburg dust on the front with a quicker rolling Racing Ralph to keep the rear in check. Yes, a number of riders have raced with adjustable seat posts over the past few seasons but, looking around the pits in, 2018 seems to be the year it goes mainstream. Cherie is using the KS Lev Integra with 100 mm of travel. Cherie prefers a Specialized Power saddle with a 143 mm width. Specification list: FrameHead TrentonForkSR Suntour Axon WerxFront TyreSchwalbe Rocket Ron Addix SpeedGrip 2.25Rear TyreSchwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speed 2.25HandlebarControlTECH 720mmGripsHead foamStemControlTECH CLS 90mmHeadset + top capAcros top capSeatpostKS Lev Integra 100mmSaddleSpecialized Power 143mmBrakesSRAM Level UltimateBrake rotorSRAM CentreLine 160mmShiftersSRAM X01 EagleRear derailleurSRAM X01 EagleCassetteSRAM X01 Eagle 10-50TCrank armsSRAM XX1 170mmChainringSRAM Eagle 34TChainKMC X12Bottom BracketGPXPedalsShimano XTBike computerCicloWeight10.1 kg
  5. The Specialized team appear to favour the dual suspension S-Works Epic over the hardtail Epic and Sam Gaze is no exception. His Epic is tricked out with all the top of the range goodies from the S-Works stable, right down to the carbon bottle cage. The ROTOR 2INpower crankset measure power readings from each crankarm independently giving the rider an accurate reading from every down stroke. Sam paired the crankset with a ROTOR oval Q-Ring sized at 36 teeth. The suspension features Specialized's Brain technology in a custom adapted RockShox shock and SID fork. The fastest number on the day. Despite starting a few rows back, Sam managed to get himself to the front of the race right from the get-go. The team uses Specialized's in-house Roval brand for wheels. In this case, the Control SL wheelset with carbon rims, DT Swiss spokes, and Roval hubs featuring DT Swiss engagement internals on the back hub. Sam races on Specialized's fast rolling Renegade tyres. Sam appears to like his bike slammed with no spacers in sight. The 130 mm long Specialized stem with a negative 24-degree angle to the S-Works carbon 720 mm handlebars. The Specialized team are riding Magura brakes this year. The brand's MT8 Raceline with carbon lever and yellow calipers shine brightly on Sam's bike. By popular demand, the weight. While holding a scale in a field is probably not the most accurate means of weighing the bike, we have few alternatives when under pressure to get a bike back to the mechanics but in Sam's case the scale read around the 10.4 kilogram mark. Full specifications: FrameSpecialized S-Works EpicForkRockShox SID BrainShockRockShox/Specialized BrainRimsRoval Control SLHubsRoval Control SL, rear with DT Swiss Star RatchetSpokesDT SwissTyresSpecialized Renegade 2.1HandlebarS-Works carbon 720mmGripsSpecialized XC RaceStemS-Works 130mm, -24 degreeHeadsetFSASeatpostS-Works carbonSaddleS-Works PhenomBrakesMagura MT8 RacelineBrake RotorsMagura 160mmShiftersSRAM XX1 EagleRear DerailleurSRAM XX1 EagleCassetteSRAM XX1 Eagle 10-50tCranksRotor 2INpowerChainringRotor Q-Ring 36 toothChainSRAM XX1 EagleBottom BracketRotorPedalsLook X Track Race CarbonBottle CagesSpecialized carbonWeight10.4 kg
  6. With a change of teams comes a change of bikes from Silverback to the Spanish BH for Annie Last. For Team KMC EKOÏ SR Suntour she will be racing a BH Lynx Race, a 100mm travel XC and marathon racer. Following a successful season in 2017, Annie started on the front row for the World Cup season opener in Stellenbosch. SR Suntour is a title sponsor for Annie's team. They have supplied her with a carbon Axon fork along with an Unair shock. A single cable operated lever opens and closes the remote lockout for both components in unison. Annie measures her effort with a Rotor 2INPower power meter crankset and propels a 32 tooth Rotor chainring. Time's lightweight ATTAC XC 12 (claimed weight 248 grams for a pair) connect Annie to the bike. The rest of the gearing is largely a SRAM XX1 Eagle affair with a KMX X12 chain in a matching black and gold colour scheme. Annie entrusts Magura's unmistakable MT8 Raceline brakes to perform the stopping with 160 mm rotors. The wheels and tyres see French manufactures Mavic and Michelin combined. The wheelset is a Mavic's carbon CrossMax Pro while Michelin supply Jet XCR cross-country race tyre. Annie's elects to race with Prologo's carbon railed Dimension Nack saddle. Just one more part that helps the bike reach a weight of around 10.2 kilograms. Full Specifications: FrameBH Lynx Race RC (Size medium)ForkSR Suntour Axon WerksShockSR Suntour UNAirWheelsetMavic CrossMax Pro CarbonTyresMichelin Jet XCR (Front: 2.25; Rear: 2.10)HandlebarBH Evo CarbonGripsSpecialized XC RaceStemPro 70 mmHeadsetFSASeatpostBH Evo CarbonSaddlePrologo Dimension NackBrakesMagura MT8 RacelineBrake RotorsMagura 160mmShiftersSRAM XX1 EagleRear DerailleurSRAM XX1 EagleCassetteSRAM XX1 EagleCranksRotor 2INpowerChainringRotor 32 toothChainKMC X12-TIPedalsTime ATAC XC 12Weight10.2 kg
  7. Photo credit: Epic World Cup / BOOGS Photography. The New Zealander fell to the ground after the finish, half in agony and half in ecstasy after winning his first race as an elite athlete. He had been struggling with cramp for the last few laps but the realisation that he had beaten Schurter, the Swiss superstar, who had gone unbeaten in all six legs of the 2017 World Cup, forced a smile through the pain. Photo credit: Epic World Cup / BOOGS Photography. Maxime Marotte of France was third in a sprint in which Schurter faltered after his left foot uncleated from his pedal in the kick to the line. Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands was fourth and Frenchman Titouan Carod fifth. “It’s a dream come true,” said Gaze, who won the under-23 World Championship for the second-time last year. “We live our lives through these guys and look up to them as young riders. I watched London 2012, and Jaroslav (Kulhavy, 2012 Olympic gold medallist) and Nino racing there. You always dream you can do it. You always go to sleep wishing you can do it. And to do it, is incredible.” Photo credit: Epic World Cup / Ewald Sadie. “Winning that sprint, was just a moment of disbelief. I was starting to cramp with a lap and a half to go. I was just pushing my way through. As we got closer and closer to the finish I knew I had to be in front. I went for it as we came over the bridge and it came off. I was never sure, but it is just amazing. I’m getting close (to full potential). I had a lot of problems last year, personal problems, physical problems that I had to go through. I knew I was in a good place this weekend. You always wish, but when it becomes reality, it is mind blowing.” Photo credit: Epic World Cup / Ewald Sadie. Gaze and Schurter had shadowed each other from the start, with the New Zealander, seeded 30th, having to pick his way through the pack to get to the sharp end of the race. The two quickly established an exclusive group at the front, chased by Marotte and Van der Poel, but the latter pair could not quite close the gap. Gaze moved ahead of Schurter in the final lap and put in a brutal attack on the five-time world champion half way through the lap. Photo credit: Epic World Cup / BOOGS Photography. Schurter responded and attempted an attack of his own ahead of the Khoi Spirit section, but Gaze just managed to hold him off. Marotte had closed up on the pair as the race approached the finish line and was in touching distance as they went over the final bridge. Gaze began his sprint on the bridge before the final corner, digging deep as Schurter challenged him. Just seconds later, Gaze had won the opening leg of the World Cup, beating the World Champion and proclaiming a new talent to watch out for in 2018. Photo credit: Epic World Cup / Ewald Sadie. Full results: stel_xco_me_results_x.pdf
  8. Annika Langvad elated as she hits the home stretch to her first win of the season. Credit Epic World Cup/ Andrew McFadden. The Dane continued an amazing run of consecutive wins in the opening race of the UCI XCO World Cup series that stretches back to 2016, when she took victory in Cairns, Australia. The race on the Coetzenburg course on Saturday could have gone either way, with the two swapping the lead throughout. Langvad took the lead for the final time on the fifth lap, beating Ferrand Prevot by a narrow 13 seconds after a race that lasted 1:33;14. Anne Tauber glides through Pickup Sticks. Credit: Epic World Cup/ Andrew McFadden. Anne Tauber of the Netherlands was a lone warrior in third place, holding off a charging group of Germany’s Helen Grobert (fourth), Pole Maja Wloszczowska (fifth) and World Champion Jolanda Neff (sixth). Neff’s performance was all the more impressive considering she broke her collarbone in a crash during a cyclo-cross race in January, when she and Ferrand Prevot came down hard together. “I have no idea what it is with me and the opening race of the World Cup,” said Langvad. “It was a really good day for me, amazingly so, because I struggled a lot this week. I was putting so much pressure on myself because I wasn’t feeling good at the moment. Then I got fed up with putting pressure on myself and went out there and smashed it.” “I kept it calm. It was such an intense course, it was so easy to make small mistakes. I had a stick in my wheel. I had to unclip and run. I am satisfied with myself because I always managed to come back. Near the end, I thought, what the hell. If she is going to catch me then she must catch me.” Pauline Ferrand Prevot navigating Pickup Sticks. Credit: Epic World Cup/ Andrew McFadden Langvad had taken the lead on the first lap, before the Frenchwoman took over at the front for two laps. Langvad lost time after she was forced to dismount when she lost momentum going into the climb shortly after the technical area on lap four and was 12 seconds behind just before the Howzit section. She slowly worked her way back to the wheel of Ferrand Prevot and moved to the front on the fifth lap, a position she would never give up. South Africa’s top performer on the day was Mariske Strauss, who finished in a 28th position she believes was fated to be. “My race number is 28, I started 28th and my hotel room number this week is 28,” smiled Strauss. “I got stuck in the first couple of crashes. Someone stalled in front of me, so I had to get off and run. The atmosphere was amazing. I was thinking so this is what it is like when Europeans ride at home. Around every corner, someone was shouting my name. It was a beautiful day to be a South African. I can’t thank the organisers enough for bringing the race to Stellenbosch.” Let the celebrations begin. Credit: Epic World Cup/ Andrew McFadden. Full results: stel_xco_we_results.pdf
  9. Stellenbosch, South Africa. The excitement is building as the world’s best cross-country riders gravitate towards Stellenbosch for the Epic World Cup on 10 March. It might be 20 years since Stellenbosch last hosted a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, but the Epic World Cup is looking to become the gold standard for World Cup races all over the world for the foreseeable future. Stellenbosch is hugely popular as a mountain biking playground and has become a mecca for mountain bikers from all over the world. Many of the international riders spend a lot of time in the quaint town and refer to it as a world-class training destination. The Swiss Maestro and reigning World Champion talks race hopes. Credit: Ewald Sadie. Like defending champion Nino Schurter. Nino has been using the town as his training base for years already. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years now. Christoph (Sauser) showed us how beautiful Stellenbosch is and I train here in the European winter months – I love the place,” said Schurter. He’s expecting the course to play a big part in the day’s racing and describes the 4.4km track as ‘dusty’ and appreciably ‘slippery’. “It’s a really tough course with steep uphills and difficult descents. I raced it a few weeks ago in the South African Cup – it was very dry and the surface pretty slippery but it’s a fun course,” he added. He might be coming off a perfect season, but teammate Matthias Stirnemann proved he’s not invincible and beat the Olympic gold medalist in a South African Cup race a few weeks ago. Nino’s biggest challenge will come from a string of in-form competitors – in particular the imposing form of the Czech Express, Jaroslav Kulhavy. After an erratic 2017 season, Kulhavy will be looking to test his form ahead of this year’s Absa Cape Epic and maybe even upset Schurter in the process. “I hope I can beat Nino. I’ll at least try because it was a bit boring last year with Nino winning everything,” laughed Kulhavy. “We’ll see on the day, but I’ll try my best for success.” Team Cannondale Factory Racing chat on race hopes. Credit: Ewald Sadie. BH-SR Suntour KMC’s Jordan Sarrou is another podium hopeful. He was confident ahead of race day and made his intentions pretty clear. “I want to beat Nino and I’ll try my best. The Epic World Cup is very early in the season, but I’ve prepared well and have raced well up until now. I think I’m ready,” said Sarrou. Sarrou forms part of a three-prong French attack comprising Cannondale Factory Racing’s Maxime Marotte and Bianchi Countervail’s StéphaneTempier. The past few World Cup races have seen the French offensive develop into a highly competitive force and Maxime Marotte believes it’s the strong level of local competition back home that has spawned this renaissance. “We have a strong level in France at the moment and Julien (Absalon) is still racing too. The younger generation is in a good space at the moment and moving up through the ranks. We have a strong local championship,” quipped Marotte. Team Specialized, Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney. Credit: Ewald Sadie. Kicking off at 12:20, the women’s race is expected to be just as fierce as the men’s. This year sees 22-year-old American cross-country specialist Kate Courtney join the elite ranks. The reigning under-23 overall World Cup winner is thrilled to be in South Africa and is looking forward to stepping up to elites not to mention racing the Absa Cape Epic just seven days later with partner Annika Langvad. “It’s my first year in the elite category. The Stellenbosch course has loads of steep climbs and a lot of technical sections, there’s nowhere to recover. I’m looking forward to the physical challenge of the race. It’s going to be a big learning curve for me but I’m excited and can’t wait.” The biggest surprise remains the last-minute decision to race by World Champion Jolanda Neff. Neff, who was ruled out of competing in the Epic World Cup following a horrific crash that left her with a broken collarbone and fractured elbow, has made a remarkable recovery. “There was no way I was going to miss this event. It’s been five weeks now but everything feels good,” chirped Neff. “I won the Internacionales XCO Chelva race in Spain on Sunday and that motivated my decision to come race.” Maja Wloszczowska, Jolanda Neff and Simon Steibjahn. Credit: Ewald Sadie. Despite her injuries Neff is still one of the favourites in an exceptionally stacked women’s field that includes such icons as Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, Maja Wloszczowska, Annika Langvad, Annie Last, Emily Batty as well as South African hopeful and reigning national champion Mariske Strauss. The South African is in high spirits and will be giving it her all in front of a home crowd. “Stellenbosch is a special place for me personally. I’ve trained here and lived here as a student – it’s my home. Cross-country, as a discipline, has blossomed here in South Africa and the World Cup will help develop and nurture future talent.” Saturday is set to go down in the books as the most epic World Cup ever – make sure you don’t miss any of the action and get down to Coetzenburg in Stellenbosch on 10 March to be part of the action. The first race kicks off at 08:30. Entrance and parking are free. An Epic World Cup is here, South Africa are you ready?
  10. The 4.3km course on the slopes of the famous Coetzenburg mountain trails attached to the Stellenbosch University has been designed to challenge the world’s best athletes and allow fans an up-close-and-personal view of the action. With names such as “Puff Adder”, “Varsity Drop Out”, “Wine Barrel” and “Howzit”, course designer, Nick Floros, and builder, Corrie Muller, have ensured the first cross country race of the season will give the competitors a very African welcome to the season. Alan Hatherly, the South African under-23 star who took silver in the UCI World Championships in Cairns in September, has ridden the course numerous times and is looking forward to taking his 2017 form into his first World Cup in his home country. “It’s a World Cup track, and it lives up to that with brutal climbs and challenging technical descents,” said Hathlerly. “The course flow stays quite close to the centre hub, which will really allow the spectators to enjoy every moment of the action. It’s going to be even tougher in March with the summer heat and dusty conditions but I couldn’t be any more excited to get out there and race.” Cross country racing is extremely spectator friendly, with riders completing several laps in races that last from 90 minutes to almost two hours. This allows fans to stay in touch with every second of the action as the likes of five-time World Champion Nino Schurter, the Swiss superstar who sees Stellenbosch as his second home, seeks to defend the World Cup title he won in 2017. Schurter dominated 2017, winning every one of the six legs of the World Cup, and topping his season off with the World Champs win in Cairns, Australia. His fellow Swiss and Stellenbosch resident, Christoph Sauser, five-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic and former World Cup winner, praised the Floros-Mulder creation. Floros designed the course for the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Muller, a local dentist by profession, has a reputation as a top trail builder in the region. “The Epic World Cup course layout is great, and very spectator friendly…which is exactly what you want,” said Sauser. “The technical sections such as Wine Barrel, the Rock Garden and Pickup Sticks are super cool features which make the Stellenbosch course unique.” The Elite Men ripping off the start line of the Lenzerheide XCO World Cup. Credit: Michal Cerveny:UCI. The course will have 180m of climbing per lap with the technical sections; from the steep, switch-back climb of the Puff Adder from the second lap onwards, the tricky drop-out of the Varsity Dropout, the deep gully of the Wine Barrel, the Howzit, a two-foot drop-off on the apex of a descending corner, Khoi Spirit descent and the delicate skills needed for Pickup Sticks, showing off the talents of the world’s best riders. For South Africa’s top women rider, Mariske Strauss, the Stellenbosch World Cup will be a return to her old stomping grounds. “It’s going to be so special to race next to my old faculty at Coetzenburg, and bring the world of XCO racing to the local community,” said Strauss. “It is a top-class course for top-class athletes. We must give massive thanks to the Absa Cape Epic team and Stellenbosch University for making the South African riders dream come true. “The Wine barrel is amazing. It’s nice and steep and looks way more intense than it actually is but that’s what we need. It’s super impressive for the spectators to watch, and we as riders can still race it.” The venue and course at Coetzenberg offers spectators a variety of options when it comes to viewing the days racing, whether it is on the course, the grandstands on the finish line or with an ice cold frosty in the chill zone. The event is a perfect day out for the whole family, and children have a host of activities they can participate in a safe and secure environment. The Epic World Cup takes place on the 10th of March, on the slopes of Coetzenburg.
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