Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized toss hats into the ring.
The Absa Cape Epic is now less than two months away and the elite fields are shaping up for another fast and fierce battle on the trails of the Western Cape.
The first two teams to toss their proverbial hats into the ring are SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing and Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized. Each team boasts previous Absa Cape Epic Champions and some new blood waiting for the chance to test their mettle against The Race That Measures All.
SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing’s 2022 Absa Cape Epic campaign will be spearheaded by 2019 Absa Cape Epic winners, Nino Schurter and Lars Forster. The pair is armed with a back-up team consisting of Andri Frischknecht and Juri Ragnoli, and new machines that are ready for the demands of Africa.
“My heart was bleeding while watching the 2021 Absa Cape Epic,” explained Schurter. “I wanted to be there, racing, and giving it my all, but I had nothing left in my tank after the longest season of my career. World Cups, the Olympics, Marathon and XCO Worlds all took their toll.”
“My heart was bleeding while watching the 2021 Absa Cape Epic. I wanted to be there, racing, and giving it my all . . .
“With the World Cup circuit expanding, my focus remains on XCO, except when it comes to my favourite marathon stage race,” said Schurter. “The new Scott Spark is made for the Absa Cape Epic. It is incredibly comfortable and amazingly fast. The extra travel, no compromise on weight or stiffness and the additional water bottles all ensures we’ll be up to the challenge when the going gets tough. Our second team, Andri [Frischknecht] and Juri [Ragnoli] are also brilliant riders; I hope we don’t need to rely on them for any technical assistance, but it’s a huge confidence boost knowing we have two world-class riders to work with.”
Forster, who has the perfect Absa Cape Epic start to win rate, added: “based on the great experiences of 2019, I am looking forward to racing this year’s event. It’s the perfect way to start a season and with three weeks spent in South Africa ahead of the race, I’m sure we’ll be well acclimated to the conditions.”
“We have a plan for the race, but I am not going to elaborate too much right now,” smiled Forster. “All I’ll say is that we’ll have an eye on the overall and the rest will be written during the race.”
SCOTT-SRAM’s return to the Absa Cape Epic is going to be no cakewalk as Specialized Factory Racing, racing as Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized, has assembled two teams for the 2022 event. Both of which are heaving with firepower.
Matt Beers, the 2021 Absa Cape Epic Champion, will race alongside reigning XCC World Champion Chris Blevins and they will be supported by Tristan Nortje and Cameron Mason.
“It's still surreal to try to make the fact that I won the Absa Cape Epic sink in” confessed the South African XCM Champion, Beers. “All I dreamt about when I started mountain biking was winning the Absa Cape Epic, so yeah, it's actually odd, but I'm extremely grateful to be in this position. I am equally as motivated to have the chance to defend my title with the best support, especially with Chris [Blevins] by my side.”
“It's extremely exciting to be teaming up with Chris,” Beers continued. “He's an absolute wizard on a bike and he's been at the top level for so many years, despite his young age, in all disciplines. I know he's a very smart guy with a lot of other interesting projects off the bike. I'm excited to get to know him over this adventure and show off what South Africa has to offer.”
“Well obviously he's the defending champion and hometown hero,” Blevins smiled in response. “I couldn't ask for a better partner. I've heard Matt has an incredible engine and can just torch it on the flats. It's also quite nice that he's taller than me, which I don't see too often. So, the draft will be great!”
“The Absa Cape Epic was always a daunting, wild race to me when I was a younger athlete, and I always knew I wanted to meet the challenge and do it one day” the American continued. “I've done a lot of stage races on the road throughout my career, but those don't quite compare to how rugged, scenic, and dynamic the Absa Cape Epic is. It's simply the biggest, most prestigious MTB stage race in the world and I'm thrilled to line up for it this year. Also, after this race, I'll have competed on every continent but Antarctica, which was a big bucket list goal of mine as a kid!”