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Found 19 results

  1. Sabine Spitz leading teammate Robyn de Groot. Photo credit: Marc Sampson. Absa Cape Epic. Sportzpics. The German star crashed hard 15km from the end of Stage 6, snapping her handlebars which resulted in a significant amount of time being used to fix her bike. It meant that any hope she and Team Ascendis Health partner Robyn de Groot had of winning the Absa Cape Epic were gone. The two eventually won four stages together, but luck deserted them. “It does feel a little surreal to have won four stages and still finish third overall,” said De Groot. “When we were able to ride without lady luck falling out of favour with us, we made a formidable team and we really raced well together. That’s why Lange Sports have paired us up together again for 2018.” De Groot was full of admiration for the courage shown by Sabine, the former Olympic gold medallist, in finishing the race after her second big crash of the race, the first happening during Stage 1. “We both couldn't believe what had happened in that crash,” said De Groot. “There was no time to waste. It was amazing how we started looking at options to make the bars rideable. We knew we lost a lot of time, but giving up was not an option.” “We lost our second place that day and the gap between us and Meerendal CBC was impossible to close. We could not dwell on what could have been. We just had bad luck and dealt best with what the race threw at us. In a way, the hardships we endured made our other stage victories that much sweeter, and also helped us realise what a great team we made. Winning the Grand Finale after the handlebar stage was a great feeling.” Photo credit: Marc Sampson. Absa Cape Epic. Sportzpics. While De Groot has had to take some time off to overcome an injury in the build-up to the Absa Cape Epic, she is back on track and has been training with Sabine in South Africa. “She has been paramount to helping me through this injury mentally and physically. Her preparation is going well and she has really enjoyed exploring more of South Africa on her bicycle.” The South African Marathon Champion has enjoyed much success in Prologues at the Absa Cape Epic, having won it twice and taken a second place in her three races. “I’ve enjoyed the Prologues and really just focussed on enjoying starting a race you prepare so hard for... it always feels great to finally start. It’s a small part of the race, but, none the less, they are hard stages where we push our limits, so winning them is just as big a win as the longer more endurance based stages. “I wouldn’t say you can jump to conclusions based on the Prologue performances. So much can happen in eight days. Last year was certainly a testament to this for us.” De Groot does not like to over-analyse the route of the race too much. She knows the stages will be tough, the drought in the Western Cape will make the trails more challenging, and feels the time trial on Stage 5 will bring a new dynamic to those racing at the sharp end with.
  2. The Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, saw the Team Spur/Red-E combination to Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distance NAD Pro MTB in the final meters to claim a potentially decisive stage win. The sixth stage of the race, on Friday the 20th of October, featured a mammoth 2 700 metres of climbing and was won by the Team Ascendis Health duo of Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz in the UCI women’s competition. Click here to view the article
  3. The Swartberg Pass is an iconic feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek and after its absence in 2016, Dryland Event Management took the decision to reinclude the grand old dame in the 2017 event. The 95 kilometre long stage might have ended on the Swarberg Pass, but the National Monument’s roads – which date back to 1886 – only accounted for 800 metres of the total elevation gain, making the stage exceptionally brutal. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distanced Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink in the final 300 metres of the Swartberg Pass climb to claim victory on the Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Once again the NAD Pro MTB team did their best to drive up the pace in the early phases of the race, but without a second equally strong general classification team to counter punch and put Team Spur/Red-E under pressure they could not force a split from the yellow jersey wearers. Despite crossing some typically technical Klein Karoo terrain, which shook off the other UCI men’s teams Spur/Red-E and NAD Pro started the final climb together. “I tried to set a tough pace in the hope of dropping Alan [Hatherly]” Bell explained at the top of the Swartberg Pass. “It is impossible to set the pace and attack so Gawie [Combrink] tried to attack a few times, with the idea of me riding across to him if he got away. But Alan [Hatherly] and Matt [beers] were too strong and could follow every move” he concluded. “My legs felt terrible on the final climb, but somehow I hung in there. Then in the last 500 metres they started to feel better, miraculously, so I thought we might as well go for it and see if we could gain a few seconds” Beers said. “Alan [Hatherly] is like a little rat, he climbs so fast” he laughed, “and I’m like an ogre, so I just have to hang in there.” Matt Beers looks back as he makes the decisive attack on the upper reaches of the Swartberg Pass. Photo by Hayden Brown. The sixth stage win of 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, for Team Spur/Red-E saw them cross the line 8 seconds ahead of NAD Pro MTB and extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 43 seconds. The third placed team on the general classification, KMC Fruit to Go, crossed the finish line on the summit of the pass 6 minutes and 41 seconds behind the stage winners. The result sees Bram Rood and Gerben Mos slip to 17 minutes and 31 seconds down on the overall time sheets. In the women’s race Team Ascendis Health made the going brutally tough for Team Spur/Valencia. By the 45 kilometre mark De Groot and Spitz had established a lead of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. It looked for all money as if Ariane Luthi and Amy-Beth McDougall would falter, allowing the pink jerseys to slip from their shoulders. Robyn de Groot reaches across to congratulate her Ascendis Health teammate, Sabine Spitz, on another stellar stage. Photo by Hayden Brown. After three stages of struggling to match her partner’s pace McDougall put in a race saving ride on stage 6. The Valencia rider was the dominant partner in the team on the stage and rescued Team Spur/Valencia’s Cape Pioneer Trek title hopes. “Amy [McDougall] was so strong today, she really helped me so much” a grateful Lüthi said. “We gave it our all today” a visibly spent De Groot accounted from the top of the Swartberg Pass. “But it was not to be.” “That is racing” her partner Spitz concluded. An exhausted Ariane Lüthi recovers while Amy-Beth McDougall smiles in the knowledge that the Team Spur/Valencia pairing did enough to hang on to their pink leaders’ jerseys going into the final stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Both the men’s and women’s races are far from decided however; the final stage, which takes in 1 150 metres of climbing in its 64 kilometre distance, dished up drama in last year’s edition of the Cape Pioneer Trek. The loose shale surfaces of Chandelier Game Farm provide for exhilarating mountain biking, but they can lead to serious mechanicals and spectacular implosions too. In 2016 both the Team Spur and Cape Brewing Co Elite squads lost their podium positions; after a side wall puncture for Julian Jessop, of Team Spur, and a complete draining of his energy reserves for Daniel Gathof saw both teams lose massive chunks of time. It remains all to race for then, with NAD Pro MTB and Team Ascendis Health afforded one final opportunity to topple Team Spur/Red-E and Team Spur/Valencia from the top of the men’s and women’s general classifications. To follow the action as it unfolds mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, from 07:30 on Saturday morning. In addition to the live coverage on Twitter the highlights from every stage of the race can be viewed on the Cape Pioneer Trek Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za. Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (4:07:08) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (4:07:17 | +00:08) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (4:13:50 | +06:41) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:14:09 | +07:00) 5. KTM Pro Team, Moritz Bscherer & Manuel Pliem (4:22:57 | +15:48) UCI Women | Stage 6 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (4:33:12) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:35:50 | +02:38) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:41:41 | +1:08:29) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:44:29 | +1:11:17) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (6:02:16 | +1:29:04) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (19:27:51) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (19:29:35 | +01:43) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (19:45:23 | +17:31) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (20:01:56 | +34:04) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (20:13:33 | +45:41) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (21:42:30) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (21:45:00 | +02:29) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (25:09:30 | +3:27:00) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (26:18:35 | +4:36:05) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (27:57:59 | +8:30:08) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  4. The Team Spur/Red-E combination of Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers sprinted to victory on stage three of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, on Tuesday, the 17th of October. Their female compatriots were not able to match their winning streak, however, as Team Ascendis Health raced to their first stage win of the race crossing the finish line, in George, first in the elite women’s competition. Click here to view the article
  5. The 99 kilometre long stage, from Mossel Bay to George, took in 2 000 metres of climbing, but the largely smooth road surfaces made for an easier day than on the preceding, rocky, stage. Once again the wind played its part, but unlike during stage two the South Westerly wind blew the riders towards their destination rather than impeding their progress towards it. In the elite men’s race the tailwind kept the leading group of riders together until the final water point at the 75 kilometre mark of the stage. By then the NAD Pro team, of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink, and the Spur/Red-E combination had whittled the initial group of eight teams down to the four main contenders. Joining the general classification leaders and their nearest rivals at the front of the race were the Dutch KMC Fruit to Go team, of Bram Rood and Gerben Mos, and the Czech Kellys Bikeranch team, of Jiri Krivanek and Marek Rauchfuss. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers further secured their grip on the yellow leaders’ jerseys with their third stage victory of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, in George on Tuesday, the 17th of October. Photo by Zoon Cronje. Krivanek and Rauchfuss were the first to falter in the stage’s first singletrack after the final water point. Then an acceleration from Hatherly reduced the group to just NAD and Spur/Red-E. “They are just stronger than us, so we are focusing on third” Rood confessed post stage. “We tried to race smart today and conserve energy for the final hour” Hatherly said. “We attacked on a sharp singletrack climb and got a little gap on NAD, but then I slipped and moved over on the next little climb – because it is the sporting thing to do – which allowed Nico [bell] and Gawie [Combrink] past” Beers elaborated. “Then we had to work hard to catch back up to them, and when we did we knew it would come down to a sprint” the Red-E rider concluded. The blustery conditions made for tactical rather than aggressive racing as the riders made their way through the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains on their way from Mossel Bay to George. Photo by Zoon Cronje. “I’m not known for my sprint so I knew we would have to go early and make it around the corner onto the sport fields first to take the stage win. I went with about 300 meters to go, but we could not hold them off” Combrink reflected on the decisive moment of the stage. Hatherly powered passed the NAD Pro pairing and Beers hung on as best he could to secure their third successive stage victory by a single second. The women’s race was also a war of attrition, with the last two days taking their toll on Amy-Beth McDougall in particular. “Yesterday was really hard and I struggled a lot, so I think it’s accumulative. I’ve been having a little bit of a chest problems too, so from 85 kilometres onwards I was suffering” McDougall elaborated. “Robyn [de Groot] and Sabine [spitz] were leading through the singletrack and after a slippery section, which we had to walk up, I lost concentration and fell. It was not a bad crash but they got a gap and we could not close it” she concluded. Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz, of Team Ascendis Health, pose for a post-stage photo after their first victory of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Zoon Cronje. De Groot and Spitz raced to victory and in so doing clawed back 1 minute and 22 seconds to Team Spur/Valencia in the general classification standings. “Today went smoothly” De Groot said, after completing her first stage win of the race. “There was a lot of wind at the start and a few obstacles which kept the bunches together. We were fortunate to have a tailwind which blew us along the contours and towards George. It was pretty muddy and chilly. But I’m happy with how it went” she summarised. Ariane Lüthi and Amy-Beth McDougall remain in the pink jerseys, as the leading women’s team, though their advantage shrunk to 5 minutes and 47 seconds, after their second position on stage 3. Photo by Zoon Cronje. Stage four marks the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen’s first ever mid-race time trial. After a hint of the singletrack conditions in the forests above George, in the final ten kilometres of stage three, the riders by-in-large know what to expect from Wednesday’s 31 kilometre long stage. “It is going to be muddy and slippery, especially on the new trails” Bell predicted. “The downhill sections are fine because you can ride off the track on the grass, but the climbs are going to be tricky.” The leading men will probably take just over an hour to complete the route and while it is unlikely to provide a race winning time gain; it could cost a team the race, should they suffer a serious crash or mechanical. On the muddy trails, with the added pressure of the time trial, emerging unscathed could well prove more important than gaining a few seconds. To see how the action unfolds, during stage four, mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, for live updates. The highlights from every stage of the race of the Cape Pioneer Trek can be viewed on the event Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za. Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 3 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (3:58:17) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (3:58:18 | +00:01) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (3:59:44| +01:27) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:03:40 | +05:23) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (4:04:57| +06:40) UCI Women | Stage 3 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz ( 4:22:33) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:23:54 | +01:21) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:02:54| +40:21) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:21:40| +59:06) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (5:31:31 | +1:08:58) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 3 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (10:36:07) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (10:37:10 | +01:03) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (10:42:35 | +06:28) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (10:53:09 | +17:01) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (10:53:52 | +17:44) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 2 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (11:45:48) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (11:51:35 | +05:47) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (13:24:49 | +1:39:01) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (14:15:02| +2:29:13) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (15:12:09 | +4:36:02) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  6. “We did what we had to do,” was Robyn de Groot’s understated description of Team Ascendis Health’s victory in the opening stage of the Absa Cape Epic on Sunday. Click here to view the article
  7. Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS South African De Groot and her German partner Sabine Spitz landed the first blows in the fight for the Hansgrohe Women’s category when they beat Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC) by 39 seconds over the 26km prologue course at Meerendal Wine Estate. Cape Town local Mariske Strauss and Briton Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) claimed third, another 70 seconds back, with the Spur duo of defending champion Ariane Luthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur) struggling to a disappointing fourth, over two minutes behind the leaders. Luthi, was visibly shattered after crossing the line and virtually conceded defeat after the opening stage. “We were just not strong enough today,” said the three-time Women’s category winner. “We did what we could but it was not enough.” When asked if she thought the longer stages from Monday may suit them more, she shook her head and repeated: “We are not strong enough.” Jennie Stenerhag and Ester Suss of Meerendal CBC during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS In contrast a very relaxed and upbeat De Groot could not keep the smile off her face. “We really enjoyed the route out there today. It was so nice doing what we love doing today. The plan was to take is at is comes and it went perfectly so we had a very good prologue today. “For me it is such a privilege to be to be able to learn from Sabine for this week – and who can there be better to learn from?” said the multiple South African champion. (Left to Right) 2nd Place Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss of Meerendal CBC, 1st Place Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot of Ascends Health and 3rd Place Mariske Strauss & Annie Last of Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS In the Virgin Active Mixed race, Olympic Women’s gold medallist Jenny Rissveds and mountain biking legend Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram Nextlevel) claimed the early lead and take a one minute 44 second lead into the second stage in Hermanus on Monday. Grant Usher and former World Single Speed World Champion Amy Beth Mcdougall (Joberg2c-Valencia) are second with the New Zealand paring of Willy Williams and Kate Fluker (New World St Martins) third just six seconds further back. Monday’s Stage 1 is very different from the fast and furious 26km prologue. The riders will tackle a gruelling 101km stage that starts and finishes in Hermanus. Absa Cape Epic Prologue Highlights
  8. The 2017 Absa Cape Epic sports the strongest men’s field in the 14-year history of the race, with up to six teams aiming for the top step of the podium. Several years of a special focus on the women’s race has born fruit in recent editions: the standard of the field has steadily got stronger and the racing more exciting. The trend continues in 2017 and the racing is bound to be thrilling as a number of the world’s top marathon racers pit themselves against one another. Click here to view the article
  9. Elite Men Nino Schurter competes in the men's cross-country race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games 2016. Pascal GUYOT / AFP There will be many races within the race, but two stand out: The battle of the Olympic gold medallists: Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, who took home the gold in 2016, will be in the field racing against his great competitor Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic, the 2012 Olympic winner. Schurter will be riding with compatriot Matthias Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) and Kulhavy with Swiss Christoph Sauser (Investec Songo Specialized). The battle of the five-time winners. Sauser has been tempted back from a one-year retirement in a bid to beat his great rival Karl Platt to being the first to six wins. German Platt won the inaugural event in 2004 and bagged his fifth win in 2016. Platt will be riding with Swiss Urs Huber (Bulls) again this year. Karl Platt [front] and teammate Urs Huber in action during the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo credit: Nick Muzik - Sportzpics But there are several others who will also be eyeing the top step of the podium. Foremost among these may be Austrian strongman Alban Lakata, who has finished second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the Absa Cape Epic and is desperate to add a first to his long list of accomplishments. He will be riding with Czech Kristian Hynek (Topeak Ergon), himself a former winner of the race, and hoping that the bad luck that has dogged him over the years is finally a thing of the past. Another team that will be hoping their luck has turned will be Centurion Vaude’s German combination of Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess. They appeared headed for a win in 2014 before falling foul of a broken frame and have since been held back by injuries. And dark horse Italians Damiano Farraro and Samuele Porro (Trek Selle San Marco) raced to third place in their first Absa Cape Epic in 2016 and showed they have the pedigree to challenge for an overall win. Christoph Sauser racing the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. A South African with an eye on the podium will be national marathon champion Max Knox, riding with Columbian Hector Páez (Plascon). The South African has been in great form in 2016 and his partner is a tough and experienced rider who has notched up a series of successes over the years: expect them to be at the sharp end of the racing. Significantly, all of these teams have strong back-up teams – a prerequisite to winning the Absa Cape Epic these days. Other teams in the race who will be targeting stages include Manuel Fumic of Germany and Brazilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), the South African pairing of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga), Germans Martin Gluth and Julian Schelb (Silverback OMX Pro), and Switzerland’s Konny Looser, who is riding with up-and-coming South African Matt Beers (RED-E Ryder), another who has been in great form recently. Hansgrohe Women The winning team from the past three years has broken up with Annika Langvad returning to her studies after winning the Cross Country World Championships and the Absa Cape Epic in one year. Her partner Ariane Luthï of Switzerland – but South African-based – will be riding with German Adel Morath (Spur). Team Spur Specialized's Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad on their way to overall victory in the ladies category during the final stage of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Luthï is vastly experienced at stage racing and her success at the Absa Cape Epic – she has also won the Mixed Category on two occasions – will give them some edge in a race that demands both cool heads and strong legs. Morath debuted at the race in 2016 and finished third overall with Briton Sally Bigham. They will face a huge challenge from German mountain biking legend Sabine Spitz, who will be riding with South Africa’s Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health). The 45-year-old German raced her first Cape Epic in 2016, finishing second overall with Ukranian Yana Belomoina, after a career that has seen her win gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and world championships in both cross country and marathon disciplines. Spitz’s appetite for the Absa Cape Epic was clearly sparked in 2016 and she and Belomoina dominated the second half of the race, winning the last three stages. Team Sport for Good's Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina on their way to stage victory during the final stage of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS De Groot, by contrast, was in imperious form early on in 2016 and she and partner Jennie Stenerhag of Sweden won the Prologue and Stage 1 before the latter fell victim to a heart condition. There are other teams that will be aiming for the podium and perhaps getting on to the top step. Switzerland’s Esther Suss is a former Women’s and Mixed Category winner and will be riding with the aforementioned Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC). Both are wily competitors and while they might not have the firepower of the top two teams they will know that a lot can happen over eight days. Another European pairing, Hielke Elferink of the Netherlands and Switzerland’s Cornelia Hug (Meerendal CBC1), will also be poised to strike if the top teams falter. The former has two Top 10 finishes at the Absa Cape Epic and Hug is an accomplished marathon specialist with some excellent results over the years. Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian of Team Dormakaba will be the African team to watch in the challenge for the women's title Besides De Groot, South African interest will focus on local youngster and rising star Candice Neethling and her Namibian partner Vera Adrian (Dormakaba). They come off wins at both the Berg&Bush and Sani2c and will fancy their chances of a stage win or two. Another young and promising South African, Mariske Strauss, will be teamed up with Briton Annie Last as Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro and will also be hoping to make an impression. Dimension Data Masters There are always several races within the race at the Absa Cape Epic and few are as fiercely contested as the Dimension Data Masters category.In 2016 it was won by Dutchman Bart Brentjens and Brazilian partner Abraao Azevedo (CST Brentjens MTB) for the third year in succession, but they had to see off strong challenges in all those years. Besides winning the category for riders of over 40-years-old, Brentjens and Azevedo finished 14th overall in 2014, 16th in 2015 and 21st last year – remarkable performances given the quality competition from the phalanx of professional riders. Brentjens is a former overall winner, taking the title in 2005 with Belgian Roel Paulissen. Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo on their way to victory and the overall lead in the Masters category during stage 3 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 16th March 2016. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. In 2017 Brentjens and Azevedo will face a formidable challenge from two Absa Cape Epic debutants who have a long and distinguished mountain biking pedigree. Germans Thorsten Keller and Max Friedrich (Craft Rocky Mountain) have been at or near the top of the sport in their country for many years. 44-year-old Keller has raced internationally since 1991, was a member of the German national mountain biking team and has notched up several podium positions since he started racing in the master's category. Friedrich has a similarly stellar career and in 2012 finished just 0,97 seconds behind winner Brentjens in the four-day Alpen Tour Trophy stage race. He has been the German marathon champion in the master's category six times and is familiar with South African conditions, having twice won the mixed category at the Cape Pioneer Trek. Then there’s one of the biggest names in world cycling, former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. Evans started his career as a mountain biker and won the World Cup series in 1998 and 1999 before turning to the road. He will be racing with another Tour de France veteran George Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing Team). Although they have played down their chances of success, they are both pedigreed racers and will go for it if they get a sniff. The South African challenge is likely to be headed by the crack combination of Hannes Hanekom and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (@40). Both have finished the Absa Cape Epic eight times, with the former’s best finish being 17th overall and the latter eighth. Their experience and familiarity with the conditions should make them strong challengers. But keep an eye out for the Lamond brothers Nic and Simon (Podium Sports), who have both been consistently near the front of the race over the years and are skilled riders. Grand Masters Two teams are likely to dice it out for this category, which was introduced in 2013 and has proved to be far more competitive than anticipated.Swiss legend Barti Bucher and his Austrian partner Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal CBC 3) have won the category twice since then and finished second overall in 2016 after a poor Stage 1 set them back. Bucher knows the top step of the Absa Cape Epic podium well – he has also won the Master's category twice and the Mixed once. Besides his two successes with Bucher, Zoerweg won the Grand Masters category with Andrew McLean in 2014. Robert Sim [L] and Udo Boelts [R] during stage 4 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 17th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS They will, however, have to overcome 2016 winner Robert Sim and his fellow South African Doug Brown (Robert Daniel) if they are to win the category this year. Sim took the Grand Masters trophy in 2016 with German Udo Boelts and has a long history of podium finishes in the Master's category. Brown has twice won the Master's category and is looking to add a first to his second and third-place finishes in the Grand Masters. They will give the Europeans a stern test and Sim will be aiming to repeat his amazing performance in 2016 when he and Boelts finished 25th overall. This race should provide a thrilling sub-plot to the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Virgin Active Mixed The presence of Olympic gold medallist Jenny Rissveds is bound to fire up the racing in the Virgin Active Mixed category.The Swede has suggested that her objective will simply be to finish the race, but she has such outstanding ability that she is likely to be at or near the front anyway. The 22-year old will be riding with team manager Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland (SCOTT SRAM Next Level), a former cross country and marathon world champion and still very strong on a bike at 47. Catherine Williamson and Johan Labuschagne at the 2016 Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race. Photo: Full Stop Communications Two other teams are likely to be among the front-runners. The English/South African combination of Catherine Williamson and Johan Labuschagne (RBI Tech-Mitas) have both performed excellently in the Absa Cape Epic before: Williamson has won the Women’s category and Labuschagne notched up a second in the Mixed category. She has a reputation as a tough and determined competitor and their combination should be formidable. Then there is 2016 Olympic triathlete Mari Rabie, who will be racing with Corrie Muller (Fairtree Capital). Rabie has never done an Absa Cape Epic before but is a strong cyclist and her partner has finished the event seven times – including the very first race in 2004– and notched up a second in the Master's category. Rabie thrilled South Africans by competing strongly at the Olympics, where she finished 11th overall.
  10. Photo credit: Nick Muzik | Sportzpics Sadly, Stenerhag fell ill on Stage 3 and had to pull out of the event. Later in the event German mountain biking legend Sabine Spitz, racing with Ukranian Yana Belomoina, stormed home over the closing passages, winning Stage 5, 6 and 7 and ultimately finishing second in the Hansgrohe Women's category. Now De Groot and Spitz have joined forces (Team Ascendis Health) and the formidable combination will be aiming to win the whole thing. “After finishing second in my first Cape Epic in 2016, I wouldn't be going for third place,” Spitz laughs. “So of course the overall win will be the goal for this year … but it is a long race and a lot of things can happen.” To get there they will have to topple Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland, who has won the category for the past three years with Dane Annika Langvad (the team that won Stages 2, 3 and 4 last year). Significantly though, Langvad has study commitments at the time of the 2017 Cape Epic and Lüthi will be riding with German Adelheid Morath (Team Spur). The Ascendis Health and Spur combinations will start as category favourites with the Swiss/Swedish combination of Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC). “The ladies field for 2017 offers great depth, riders of class, and some really strong partnerships, so I have no doubt the race is going to be very exciting,” says De Groot. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie | Sportzpics Among her many achievements, Spitz has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and world championships in the cross country and marathon disciplines. After retiring from a distinguished road career in 2012 De Groot has won the national mountain biking marathon championship for four consecutive years. So how did the partnership come about? “Last November (Team Ascendis Health manager) Malcolm Lange asked me if I'm interested in racing with Robyn. So that was a great opportunity for me,” Spitz says. The pair only met last year at the Cape Epic: “But we are in touch and I think we are a very good match,” adds Spitz. “We have both been professional riders for a long time and I'm sure we can work great together.” De Groot says: “I have to thank my management team from Lange Sports, who run Team Ascendis Health. Malcolm really went out of his way to source and secure a world class partner for this year’s Epic. I couldn’t have wished for better.” “I don’t know Sabine all that well: we are in touch and slowly getting to know one another as time goes by. Based on my interactions with her last year at the 2016 Epic and so far to date, she has a wonderful personality and I have a feeling we will get along really well. I like the outlook she has on life and racing as well as the energy she carries,” says De Groot. “On the bike Sabine brings so much experience with her. She is an incredible technical rider and a well-rounded cyclist … I think her palmarés (the list of races a rider has won) speaks for itself.” Asked about her impressions of the Cape Epic, Spitz said: “If you do a race like the Epic for the first time, you can't ride like in a cross country race. I always tried not to go over the limit, so maybe that was the secret. I really enjoyed competing in the Epic, not only because of the routes but also because it was well organised.” “It's good to have Robyn - a local - as my teammate. I'm sure she can help me with information about the stages,” says Spitz. “I had a look at the route, and it seems to be harder then last year.” “The Cape Epic is a total different challenge compared to European Stage Races. The percentage of technical riding is very high,” Spitz says. “In Europe it’s the opposite: we have a lot of tarmac, forest and dirt roads … sometimes boring mountain biking. So I'm sure there will be a lot of very challenging parts on the Cape Epic route in 2017.” In April last year the German ruptured a cruciate ligament but she seems to be well over that now: “So far everything is okay and I'm fully into my training schedule. My knee is so far okay … I did the whole season last year and it worked well and it is also no problem at the moment.” De Groot says her training is going according to schedule: “Fortunately summer has allowed me the opportunity to start my preparation well. I’ve been enjoying the process and I guess that is what it is all about.”
  11. In 2016 South Africa’s Robyn de Groot, riding with Swede Jennie Stenerhag, started the Absa Cape Epic like a house on fire, winning the Prologue and Stage 1. Click here to view the article
  12. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Part of being a professional sportsperson is coping when things don’t go to plan. 2016 had some ups and downs for you, including losing your Epic partner after a very promising start, and a shoulder injury that saw you off the bike for several weeks, missing some big races. How did you deal with these setbacks, and did you manage to find a positive side to these events? 2016 certainly threw some difficult times my way, it is part of being an athlete I guess. I never really dwell too much on disappointments, but rather use them to grow, learn and find motivation.In terms of Epic last year I decided to continue as an outcast, which was the best decision I could have made. It kept my mind positive, it kept my heart free from disappointment, and by the time I reached Meerendal on the final day I had enjoyed a “pressure-less” ride at Epic. I got to see the event from a perspective that one doesn’t usually get to enjoy when you have your head in race mode. My shoulder injury tested me properly, however. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I learned to be patient, and funnily enough, it all happened during a time when I needed to focus my energy on my family - which I was then able to do. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag winning stage 1 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS You will be riding the 2017 Cape Epic with Sabine Spitz, whom you raced against last year. What characteristics do each of you bring to the team that might see you take the win? Yes, I am extremely excited and honoured to be racing Epic with Sabine. I don’t know her well, but we did have some interactions at last year's Epic. Her personality, energy, and mannerisms were things I certainly noticed as a drawcard. We are both professional and serious, yet relaxed. I only rode a few days of last year's Epic alongside Sabine, but I feel we will compliment one another’s riding style. She has so much experience and I have no doubt that I will learn a lot riding with her. Team dynamics are very important for stage racing: are you looking forward to racing with Sabine, and will the two of you be doing any races together as preparation? Yes, I am looking forward to racing with Sabine. I am not a partner that requires a lot of maintenance, or pre-race interaction and it seems that Sabine is the same in this regard. At this point in time, we will be doing our own separate preparation. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Has your training been going well? Will you be doing any special preparation during the build up to Epic? Yes, my coach tells me we are on track, and I have absolute faith in him. I guess there is always specific preparation leading up to an event like the Epic. Who are the other women’s teams to watch this year, and who will you be keeping an eye on at the start line? I believe that we are in for another thrilling women’s race this year - there are some really strong ladies teams that have been made public, and I am certain there will be more to come within the next few weeks. It is wonderful for the sport and for women's cycling. I hope not to leave any names out, but for now these names come to mind:Ariane Lüthi & partner Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Süss Sally Bigham & partner Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug Candice Lill (nee Neethling) & Vera Adriaan Yolandi du Toit & Theresa Ralph What do you think of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic route? Will it play to your strengths and which stages might you see as key? I’ve taken a brief look at the route. My approach, as always, is just to prepare, remain focused and be able to adapt and overcome the route as the race unfolds. My coach looks into the routes in more detail and prepares me accordingly. I actually keep my mind off the route itself until just before the race, and then I take one day at a time. Beyond Epic, what are your goals for 2017? You have unfinished business with SA Marathon Champs and World Marathon Champs, will these be an area of focus for you? It is always such a gamble as to what state the Epic leaves you in: it can leave you completely broken, or relatively unscathed, so we will have to see how it goes this year.Beyond Epic, we have a National XCM series (Ashburton Marathon series) which offers one-day races and an entire series country wide which I will focus on. It suits the format of Team Ascendis Health this year for me to focus on these kinds of events. National Champs has, and always will be a goal, as I am sure it is for many others. Marathon Worlds qualification is an objective for sure, as my plans for last year's Marathon Worlds came to an abrupt end with my crash and shoulder injury. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag on their way to winning the Prologue of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Your Ascendis Health teammate from last year, Jennie Stenerhag will be riding for CBC this year, which means you no longer have a female teammate for local stage races. Do you have a partner in mind for the year, or will you be taking it race by race? That is correct, at this stage I do have some ladies in mind to team up with for various stage races throughout the year. I think as the season develops, I will get a better idea as to my form, and other ladies form, and we can take it from there in terms of forming a compatible team. So if there are any ladies looking for a partner, they are more than welcome to chat to me or my management at Lange Sports: for now the door is open…. You are riding the new Scott Spark RC 900, which has seen some serious design changes from 2016. How are you enjoying the updated design and geometry so far? There have been some major changes, and it has been an absolute pleasure to ride, with a noticeable improvement in terms of the suspension, stiffness, and responsiveness of the bike. I am proud to be associated with the Scott brand and very thankful for the support the provide to me and the team.
  13. Robyn de Groot is a multiple South African marathon champion, with an impressive array of titles under her belt. 2016 was a mixed year for her: a shoulder injury kept her off the bike and forced her to miss Marathon World Champs, where she had been selected to represent South Africa. She was also knocked out of contention for the women’s overall jersey at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, after her partner Jennie Stenerhag was forced to withdraw due to illness. This year she will be racing the 2017 Absa Cape Epic with German veteran Sabine Spitz, who finished second at last year’s Cape Epic, alongside teammate Yana Belamoina. The two will be riding as Team Ascendis Health, and look set to be strong contenders in the battle for the women’s podium. We asked Robyn some questions about her plans for 2017, hopes for the Absa Cape Epic, her new bike, and the obstacles she faced last year. Click here to view the article
  14. Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina during stage 6 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Boschendal in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 19th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS On Saturday, the Sport for Good pairing crossed the line first in a time of 3:53.32,7 to not only beat Spur-Specialized over the 69km course, but also move ahead of Topeak Ergon for second place in the Sasol Women’s category. “It was amazing… we didn't expect to come here and get two stage wins,” said a beaming Spitz. “We had lots of fun around Stellenbosch. After last night’s rain, the conditions were a little bit muddy but it reminded me of the forests back home in Germany.” Belomoina, for her part, couldn’t believe how their fortunes had turned around this week. “When I finished the first and second stage I didn’t think it would be possible to get any wins. Those stages were so hard for me, but I’ve been getting better and better and today was fantastic – it was the best course of the week with very nice downhills. We’re very happy that we’re in second place on the general classification and tomorrow we’ll try to stay there.” Going into Stage 6, Spitz and Belomoina trailed Topeak Ergon by five minutes and seven seconds, so were surprised that they were able to overhaul that margin during a short stage. “We were all together at Water Point 1 but at Water Point 3 we heard that we were almost seven minutes ahead… to hear that was great,” revealed Spitz. “Tomorrow we’ll have to hang on and if Topeak make a move we’ll stay on their heels.” Sally Bigham and Adel Morath during stage 6 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Boschendal in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 19th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Topeak Ergon’s Adel Morath revealed that it was Sport for Good’s relentless pace that saw them drop off today. “It was a very nice stage, actually my favourite one. From the beginning Sabine and Yana were riding very fast, and I was struggling to keep up. We had to accept that they were too strong for us today and ride safely. It’s disappointing to lose second place, but there’s still one more stage left…” Splitting those two teams today was the Spur-Specialized pairing of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans. The Dane again looked the stronger of the two on the course, parts of which she found time to admire while chasing Sport for Good. “It was a very good stage with lots of nice trails. We were really treated well today, especially the bermed area which was quite dark and and the pine needles on the ground made it quite beautiful. It was good to not lose any time, even though it’s now Sport for Good in second place. They have been very consistent but are now comfortable with the terrain.” Sally Bigham & Adel Morath of Topeak Ergon, Annika Langvad & Ariane Kleinhans of Spur-Specialized, Sabine Spitz & Yana Belomoina of Sport for Good during stage 6 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Boschendal in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 19th March 2016. Photo by Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Kleinhans revealed that she was on the rivet today. “On paper it was a shorter stage but it was a not a holiday, it was tough. As we get to the last few stages you have less power in the legs so I was definitely pushed to the limits today… especially when Sabine and Yana rode away from us. They climbed very well and were technically very smooth through the muddy sections.” Kleinhans and Langvad can now focus on Sunday’s Grand Finale, with their 15.43 advantage over Spitz and Belomoina meaning that only a disaster can stop them claiming their third straight title at Meerendal. “We’ve entered the closing phase of the race and we definitely want to win it,” said Langvad. “There’s been pressure on us because to live up to our previous results, but our competitors have been quite strong. That said, we go into the final stage with lots of confidence because we have a good gap, which shows we have been the strongest team this week. Now we just have to get to the finish line.”
  15. Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina may well be in the market for shares in Boschendal after winning consecutive Absa Cape Epic stages at the Stellenbosch wine estate. Click here to view the article
  16. The Sport for Good pairing have improved day-by-day this week as they have been getting used to the rigours of the Absa Cape Epic. They celebrated enthusiastically when they crossed the line first on the 93km transition stage from Wellington to Stellenbosch – billed as this year’s Queen stage for it’s 2500m of climbing. Team Sport for Good's Yana Belomoina and Sabine Spitz on their way to victory during stage 5 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington to Boschendal in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 18th March 2016. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “We were supposed to win yesterday on the ‘cross-country’ stage but coming first on the queen stage is pretty good,” said an elated Spitz, riding her first Absa Cape Epic. The 44-year-old revealed that the decisive moment for Sport for Good came in the final 10km of the stage. “I must say that Annika is riding amazingly well. She’s so strong, especially on the flat where Ariane sometimes struggles. We were together with them all the way until we got to a sandy section where Annika had to wait. That was the moment we got a gap.” Riders awoke to mild conditions in Wellington, with predicted rain only falling for a short while and helping Spitz and her 23-year-old partner’s cause. “We hoped that it wouldn’t rain the whole day but in the end was only for an hour or so. That made the surface much better for riding as the dust settled and it was compact. It allowed us to ride consistently.” Belomoina came across the line smiling from ear to ear, a clear sign that the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Under-23 champion is finding her feet on the trails of the Western Cape. “I’m feeling very strong,” she said. “I think I’m getting better and better and I’m very happy to win a stage at the Cape Epic.” Meanwhile, a relaxed looking Langvad did not seem too concerned about finishing second. Moments after crossing the line, 1.59,7 behind the Sport for Good pair, she said it had been a “perfect day … it only got hot towards the end after being quite cool”. The Dane and Kleinhans both punched the air as they finished, with the former admitting that they were surprised how well they handled the day’s climbing. “With all the climbing we didn’t think we would be superior because our competitors are very good climbers. So we were actually surprised; we paced ourselves very well and got a good result out of it in the end.” Kleinhans was not willing to let her thoughts turn to the grand finale at Meerendal yet. “To win a third title in a row would be an absolute dream, but I don’t really want to talk about it apart from saying we will give it our all to achieve it.” The top 3 ladies teams lead by Team Spur Specialized's Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad during stage 5 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington to Boschendal in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 18th March 2016. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Langvad was thankful that they’ve built up a big enough lead that they won’t have to panic if anything goes wrong during tomorrow’s 69km stage in and around Stellenbosch or Sunday’s return to Meerendal. “With two days to go the lead we have gives us a very nice feeling. We appreciate every second so to add another minute today is perfect. It means that if we get a puncture or anything we can take our time fixing it.” If for some reason Spur-Specialized do encounter trouble, Topeak Ergon’s Sally Bigham and Adel Morath are time-wise best-placed to take advantage but came home third for the second day in a row. “We’ll have to see how the remaining days go and take each one as it comes,” said Bigham, the 2012 and 2013 Absa Cape Epic winner. “Today was a good mixture of trails and we really enjoyed it when all three teams were riding together. It shows that the separate starts are working well and makes it much more interesting for me as an athlete… previously the women’s race wasn’t fair enough. It has been a step forward for the race, made it more exciting for the riders and more interesting for spectators as we’ve seen with different winners this week.” 2016 Stage 5 Women Stage Results1. Sport for Good 54-2 Yana Belomoina (Ukraine) 54-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 4:51.06,5 2. Spur-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 4:53.06,2 +1.59,7 3. Topeak Ergon 53-1 Sally Bigham (England) 53-2 Adel Morath (Germany) 4:54.01,7 +2.55,2 Overall Results 1. Spur-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 25:40.02,4 2. Topeak Ergon 53-1 Sally Bigham (England) 53-2 Adel Morath (Germany) 25:53.47,4 +13.45,0 3. Sport for Good 54-2 Yana Belomoina (Ukraine) 54-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 25:58.40,4 +18.38,0 4. Meerendal Wheeler 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 26:49.24,8 +1:09.22,4 5. Galileo Risk 55-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 55-2 Yolandi du Toit (South Africa) 28:09.06,6 +2:29.04,2 6. Energade Racing 202-1 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 202-2 Sharon Laws (England) 28:19.59,5 +2:39.57,1 7. Meerendal Rocky EBE 56-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 56-2 Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) 28:20.41,3 +2:40.38,9 8. Asrin Cycling 71-1 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia) 71-2 Sandra Santanyes Murillo (Spain) 28:39.29,0 +2:59.26,6 9. Liv - MTB Pro 59-1 Muriel Bouhet (France) 59-2 Merce Pacios Pujado (Spain) 31:46.49,5 +6:06.47,1 10. Speed Structures 68-1 Marleen Lourens (South Africa) 68-2 Nicky Giliomee (South Africa) 33:34.00,5 +7:53.58,1
  17. German mountain-biking legend Sabine Spitz and her Ukranian partner Yana Belomoina were queens of Boschendal Wine Estate today when they won Stage 5 in a time of 4:51.06,5. Click here to view the article
  18. She’s 43-years-old and still racing among the world’s elite after a career that includes an Olympic gold medal and a Cross Country World Championship title. Her partner has just emerged from the under-23 ranks, is a former age group World Champion and is now ranked fourth best cross country mountain biker in the world. Click here to view the article
  19. 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. Sabine Spitz. 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.” Yana Belomoina. Belomoina was the Under-23 Cross Country World Champion in 2014 and finished the UCI senior World Cup last year ranked an exceptional fourth. She finished third in the 2015 elite World Championship held in Vallnord, Andorra.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.
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