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The 2022 Absa Cape Epic has summoned the best teams from around the world. These are the men’s teams to watch.

So much can happen in a year in professional mountain biking. One moment a team is on top of the world, gathering up trophies with both arms, and 12 months later they find themselves on vastly differing form, and motivation. So race predictions based on past performances could verge on speculation. A counterpoint: because the Absa Cape Epic is highly demanding and riders require a full cycle to recover, and build up again to this gruelling event – possibly, the one factor with the greatest bearing on this year’s race is the fact that last year’s event was only five months ago. Some riders will be able to carry the momentum. Some won’t. Some might have missed the wave of form required to perform in 2021 and will look to catch it this year. Safe to say that conventional wisdom does not apply in these times, although it might… it’s that wide open.

Given the performances of 2021, we can conclude that riders on top factory racing teams have an edge over the others who’re not as comprehensively supported, especially the newbies. However, almost all the top contenders here have excellent staff, so it’s likely to come down to firepower, race craft and luck (although most have superb back up teams in case of mechanicals). 2022’s competitive landscape differs significantly from 2021’s with the presence of Scott-SRAM’s white hot speed as well as BUFF-MEGAMO’s and Canyon Northwave’s growing experience and heightened awareness of what it takes to win. Traditional contenders, like the BULLS, will need to pull something special out of the bag to make an impact. There is one thing that’s truly predictable – there’ll certainly be a surprise performance from a team we never expected.


Matt Beers

South Africa

Age: 27 

Absa Cape Epic history: 1x Men’s category winner 2021, 2x stage wins, 5 finishes

Palmares: 1x National XCM Champion

Christopher Blevins


Age: 23 

Absa Cape Epic history: Newbie

Palmares: 1x XCC World Champion

Back up team:

Tristan Nortje and Cameron Mason

Known for his quiet, casual disposition, yet enormously powerful engine, local campaigner Beers stepped into the limelight at the 2021 edition, virtually at the first checkpoint in the Prologue. Winning the overall GC partnered with former World Cross Country Champion Jordan Sarrou, the team dominated the early half of the race, and having done enough damage to afford a defensive tactic, they could let their rivals fight it out for stage wins and the lower steps on the podium. Early in the race, their biggest threat came in the form of World Marathon Champion Seewald and teammate Stošek, but they ended up scuppering themselves, with Stošek having to withdraw from the race. This year the competition looks far more hostile. Looking to be a worthy successor to Sarrou, Blevins is one of the sport’s rising stars, and in fact already owns a striped jersey of his own. He’s one of the most level-headed, smartest riders on the circuit, with proven abilities to read a race. If his newbie status concerns anyone, they’d just have to look to the fact that this is the most successful factory racing team of all time at the Absa Cape Epic, nurturing many a rookie to victory. But they’ll need to pay attention, considering the early season victories from the likes of Schurter and the Canyon Northwave outfit.


Nino Schurter


Age: 35

Absa Cape Epic history: 2x men’s category winner, 8 stage wins, 5 finishes

Palmares: 9x XCO World Champion, 2016 Olympic Champion

Lars Forster


Age: 28

Absa Cape Epic history: 1x men’s category winner, 4 stage wins, 1 finish

Palmares: 2x European XCO Champion, 1x Swiss Epic winner

Back up team:

Andri Frischknecht and Juri Ragnoli

If anyone had bet against Nino Schurter before the 2021 World XCO Championships in August, they would certainly have learned their lesson. The 35 year old showed his otherworldly class and motivation with his 9th title, indelibly minting his GOAT status, among fans, peers and detractors alike. Going into the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, there’s no doubting his firepower and endurance as well as his unrivalled ‘overview’, both in 90 minute races and 8 day ones, and ability to ‘have solutions’ for his rivals (his words not ours). We’ve seen how he dealt with the diesel engine ‘marathoners’ – by cranking the pace high early in the race, knowing he and Forster (in 2019) and Stirnemann (2017) would recover slightly quicker, being cross country racers, giving them the edge each day. Forster looks to be on the rise, close to his 2019 level again. He took the European Championships title again last year and he’s spent the winter racing high intensity cyclo-cross events and cross training with skimo. He proved to be a worthy partner to Schurter in 2019, sometimes even putting the GOAT under pressure, and he knows very well what it takes to achieve those levels again. This is the out-and-out favourite team.

Canyon Northwave MTB

Andreas Seewald


Age: 30

Absa Cape Epic history: 1x stage win, 1 finish

Palmares: 1x World XCM Champion, 1x Continental XCM Champion

Martin Stošek

Czech Republic

Age: 28 

Absa Cape Epic history: 1x stage win, 0 finishes

Palmares: #2 ranked XCM rider, 1x National XCM Champion

Back up team:

Kristian Hynek and Petr Vakoc

This was the surprise team at the 2021 race, with a podium spot in the Prologue (impressive for marathoners) and their Stage 3 win. Anyone looking them up after these performances would see they were no flash in the pan, though. They’d arrived on top form just after Marathon World Championships, with Seewald earning the title. They looked to be the only serious challengers to the charging Beers and Sarrou but Stage 4 derailed their plans. If Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized, Wilier-Pirelli (formerly Trek-Pirelli), BUFF-MEGAMO and the Bulls are all firing, plus the force of nature that is Nino Schurter, they have a big task ahead in 2022. But they’re revered for their experience, consistency and ability to hold a high rhythm all week, and this places them on the top of the other teams’ danger lists. Their only potential weakness is their technical ability, compared to their cross country counterparts. If they’ve done their homework they’ll know there is little point in aiming to direct their ammunition only at Schurter. Their best tactic would be to target Forster (although Cannondale Factory Racing did try that in 2019, to little avail). With a strong back up team in place they’re surely destined for a podium spot, and maybe even better.


Urs Huber


Age: 36

Absa Cape Epic history: 2016 men’s category winner, 6 stage wins, 10 finishes

Palmares: 5x National XCM Champion

Simon Schneller


Age: 24 

Absa Cape Epic history: 1 stage win, 3 finishes

Palmares: 1x U23 National XCO champion, 1x Andorra MTB Classic winner

Back up team:

Alban Lakata and Hansueli Stauffer

Rated highly by five time winner Karl Platt, rising star Simon Schneller looked to be coming of age in 2021. Him and Huber won Stage 1 and looked to be staying well within reach of the lead early in the week, ready to capitalise on any mistakes or weaknesses – true Bulls style. We saw Schneller riding at the front, creating attrition behind him. Whether Huber was a casualty of this is another question, but the fact remains that they had a disastrous Stage 4 and never truly recovered. Once the powerhouse squad, masters of the team dynamic and always a threat at the Absa Cape Epic – the Bulls can never be discounted as they seem to rise to the occasion every March (October in 2021), no matter what the early season results say. That doesn’t stop the questions coming, like “Is this the end of an era?” If the answer is based on outcome, we will have better clues on the 27th of March.


Hans Becking


Age: 35

Absa Cape Epic history: 3x stage wins, 3 finishes

Palmares: 2x National XCM Champion, 2x Dutch XCO Champion

José Dias


Age: 27 

Absa Cape Epic history: 3x stage wins, 1 finish

Palmares: 1x National XCO Champion

Back up team:

Enrique Morcillo Vergara and Hugo Drechou

The Dutchman and the Portuguese rider had a storming 2021 race, with 3 stage wins and an overall podium spot to add to their career highlights list. Although the state of competition means that the race’s narrative will be very different this year, with the presence of SCOTT-SRAM in full force, a wiser Canyon Northwave, and the defending champion. Nevertheless, they’ll still be buoyed by that success and this time they’ve brought a backup team, to hedge the risk of technical issues hampering a very real chance of them taking the GC win. Their rivals know that they typically have a bad day in the early part of a race and will look to maximise that ‘opportunity’. Becking and Dias know that they know and will be hyper focused on consistency throughout the week as they head to Val de Vie. They’re not the absolute favourite team, but if SCOTT-SRAM or Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized turn their attention to each other, the resulting damage could be BUFF MEGAMO’s chance to pounce. In terms of early season form, both Becking’s and Dias’ stage racing results thus far are very promising for fans, and ominous for rivals.


Fabian Rabensteiner


Age: 32 

Absa Cape Epic history: 1x stage win, 4 finishes

Palmares: 1x Italian XCM Champion, 1x Swiss Epic winner

Wout Alleman


Age: 26 

Absa Cape Epic history: newbie

Palmares: 1x Belgian XCO Champion

The Italian outfit that targets long-hand racing arrives with a new headline sponsor, replacing Trek with Italian bike brand Wilier and a couple of new non-Italians on the roster. The rest is highly similar – the management and most relevantly, their approach, with two seemingly equal teams. This has been their tactic in past editions, and when questioned, their blithe response can be summarised as 'let the trails decide'. While the team prefer to remain neutral when commenting on who the dominant team is, that doesn't stop us speculating, or at least investigating. Porro and Rabensteiner together seems like the obvious pairing based on their synergy and experience riding together. As if to keep us and rivals guessing though, that's not the obvious choice with Porro not racing the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. Fabian Rabensteiner has a new partner in Belgian XCO Champion Wout Alleman. With a national championship to his name, in a country where cycling is almost a religion, a 4th place at the 2021 marathon world Championships and second overall at the recent Andalucia Bike Race (partnered with Rabensteiner, notably), Alleman is no slouch. At 26 he has a decade of potential peak athletic performance and with the backing of a prolific team such as this, combined with a good showing at the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, we could be watching the rise of a new star of the sport, especially when partnered with the extreme talent and experience of Fabian Rabensteiner.

Santa Cruz

Keegan Swenson


Age: 28

Absa Cape Epic history: Newbie

Palmares: 2x National XCO Champion, 1x 1st Leadville Trail 100 winner

Maxime Marotte


Age: 35

Absa Cape Epic history: Newbie

Palmares: 2x National XCO Champion

Marotte’s presence has been felt on the UCI World Cup circuit for well over a decade, with several podium spots over the years, as well as a 3rd overall in 2018. His stage racing career results listing is poorly populated (his last notable stage race was 2 years ago), but that’s more about focus than ability. He’s still at the top of the sport in terms of firepower, as the reigning national cross country champion, and if Absa Cape Epic history is anything to go by, the explosive riders tend to fare well on the Untamed terrain. Swenson’s focus has also been on cross country, so in theory they’ll be able to cope with the all-out speed of the big guns early in the race. The American has shown promise as marathoner – he was 7th at the infamously hard 2021 marathon world championships. He also placed 3rdat the 2018 Swiss Epic – partnered with Christopher Blevins – so there’s little to question his endurance capabilities, especially considering his recent ultra-distance gravel exploits and 24-hour solo races.

Wilier-Pirelli Factory

Cameron Orr


Age: 23

Absa Cape Epic history: newbie

Palmares:  2nd place British National Championships XCO 2021

Daniel Geismayr


Age: 32 

Absa Cape Epic history: 3x stage wins, 6 finishes

Palmares: 3x Austrian XCM Champion, 1x Swiss Epic winner

Wilier-Pirelli Factory also sees a fresh Absa Cape Epic pairing due to Porro's late withdrawal from the 2022 Absa Cape Epic as young Brit Cameron Orr steps in to take his place alongside Geismayr. With Orr's lack of Absa Cape Epic experience being a possible issue, Daniel Geismayr, the six-time Absa Cape Epic finisher will be assuming team captain of the pairing and will need to use all of his race knowledge to guide the young Brit through his first encounter with The Race That Measures All. With that being said, Orr is not to be written off, however, and has seen himself to many a podium in his blossoming career. We still have high expectations of any team with Austrian star Geismayr in it. He's shone at his brightest at the Absa Cape Epic and his young new partner could help him achieve greatness in the 18th edition of the Absa Cape Epic.

Insect Science Pro

Arno du Toit

South Africa

Age: 29 

Absa Cape Epic history: 4 finishes

Palmares: 1x African Continental XCM Champion

Keagan Bontekoning

South Africa

Age: 22

Absa Cape Epic history: 2 finishes

Palmares: 2nd 2021 U23 XCO South African Championships

A top ten finish at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic should give this pairing the confidence to ride alongside some of the world’s best marathoners, especially after the young riders’ excellent 6th place on Stage 6. This proves that du Toit and Bontekoning have the ability and knowhow to be top contenders for the Absa African jersey. If Insect Science Pro arrive on good form and can use the pace of big guns to their advantage, and at the same time measure their efforts perfectly so as not to blow up, they have every chance of taking it home.

Imbuko {Type} DEV equipped by Giant

Pieter du Toit

South Africa

Age: 22

Absa Cape Epic history: 3 finishes

Palmares: 1x Junior SA XCO Cup Series Bloemfontein winner

Marco Joubert

South Africa

Age: 24

Absa Cape Epic history: 4 finishes

Palmares: bronze medal 2019 South African XCO Championships

The Absa African jersey is a coveted garment among local teams. For 2022’s race, we are missing the Pyga Euro Steel outfit, with Beukes retiring, who were always the de facto contenders, usually for stage wins too. This leaves it wide open for young teams to get their name in lights. We predict that du Toit and Joubert have what it takes in terms of ability and canniness to wear red in Val de Vie, and teammates Wessel Botha and Franko van Zyl are there as a backup plan if they falter. What stands these riders in good stead is their homebase of Wellington; while the 2022 route does not venture deep into the valleys and trails of Wellington, the teams will be more than clued up on what to expect and how to deal with the heat come March, however they’ll have to watch the likes of Insect Science Pro and Valley Electrical Titan Racing.