The Contenders: Grand Masters
Can anyone upset the two-time defending champions, Brentjens and Azevedo
Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo require no introduction. Brentjens, who is a Dutch former professional mountain biker has won multiple Olympic and World Championship medals. He was the first mountain biker to win a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, while Azevedo, is a former Brazilian professional mountain biker who has been competing at the highest level for many years.
Brentjens and Azevedo have formed a strong partnership and have achieved great success at the Absa Cape Epic with the pair completing seven races together. As a team they hold three Masters titles and two Grand Masters titles, the question is, can anyone wrestle the distinctive purple jersey off of them?
The Grand Masters purple jersey was introduced in 2013 and has proved to be highly competitive category, with several teams vying for the top spot each year. Teams wishing to compete in this category must be made up of riders both over the age of 50. The winners of this category also frequently feature in the top 20 of the field, proving that they still have what it takes to mix it up in the front. This year, Brentjens and Azevedo (KMC MTB Racing) will have to contend with the likes of Noam Schiller and Gal Tsachor (MAX CCC). The Israeli partnership are highly experienced and had some solid showings in the Masters category over the years. While they bring the exuberance of youth to the Grand Masters category you can never discount experience, which is why the legendary Thomas Frischknecht, riding with Urs Gerig (SCOTT-SRAM Old Dudes), could be a dark horse team for sure.
Gerig, for his part will be teaming up with Frischknecht at the Absa Cape Epic for the seventh time. The pair raced in the NTT Masters competition together on several occasions, with a best category result of fifth before graduating to the Absa Cape Epic Grand Masters category in 2022.
The Absa Cape Epic Grand Masters title may not be nearly as valuable as an Olympic gold medal to the one rider in the field who owns one. But it will provide some fresh material for bragging rights, especially when Brentjens and Frischnecht’s teams go head-to-head in the UCI World Cup races later in the season.
The results their riders achieve then will probably settle the scores, but a personal victory now could well ease the sting of a team defeat later.
While the proverbial limelight may fall upon Frischknecht and Gerig and Azevedo and Brentjens, Barti Bucher and Oliver Imfeld.
At 61, Bucher has 12 Absa Cape Epic finishes to his name. Though they are not simply finishes… Bucher three Grand Masters category wins, one Mixed category win, and two Masters category wins. In addition to this, he has also completed every SPAR Swiss Epic to date, making him one of the famed Last Ibexes; he is also an Epic Legend – a title reserved for riders who have completed two Epic Series Legend Race and the Absa Cape Epic. In 2023, Bucher will race with the ambition of adding a fourth Grand Masters category title to his name.
To see if Brentjens and Azevedo can make it a hattrick in the Grand Masters category or if Frischi and Gerig can claim the win, watch the Live Broadcast of the Absa Cape Epic from 19-26 March on cape-epic.com