The Contenders: The Toyota Mixed Teams
The Toyota Mixed Teams
There are over 70 teams registered for the Toyota Mixed category in the 2023 Absa Cape Epic. For some the challenge to team up, with a man and women in the squad, allows for a physically easier introduction to the rigors of the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race. While for others it provides an opportunity to race for glory, however they choose to define it.
Toyota is not only the Official Route and Vehicle Partner of the Absa Cape Epic, but the South African arm of the world’s largest auto manufacturer has also taken on the sponsorship of the Mixed category. The dark green Ciovita jerseys will therefore feature the famous T-logo. Though who will be pulling the jerseys on, after the Prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate and throughout the race to Val de Vie Estate, remains to be seen.
For many the Toyota Mixed category is an easier introduction to the Absa Cape Epic. Often an opportunity for a talented young partner to learn by racing with a more experienced partner and to benefit from a helping hand and a shield from the wind.
This tactic was implemented to perfection by Ariane Lüthi, who forged her Absa Cape Epic reputation alongside, then husband, Erik Kleinhans; winning two Mixed category titles before adding three CM.com Women’s titles to her palmarès.
Among the class of 2023 there will almost certainly be women who go on to race in the CM.com Women’s category in the future. Arguably, at this point the more interesting stories are of the more experienced campaigners, who will be racing for glory this time around. Or of the returning heroine taking on her first Absa Cape Epic in a decade.
Erica Green is one of the stalwarts of South African mountain biking. She wore the green and gold of the rainbow nation at both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, racing on the road and cross-country at the first and just the XCO at the latter. Coaching the next generation of mountain bikers has kept her busy in recent years, but it will be fantastic to see her back on the bike and racing alongside Greg Kuhnert at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.
Whether Green and Kuhnert will be able to match teams with the fire power of the Florida Flatlanders or Deinrad Orbea only time and the trails will tell. The former, made up by Amy Talbot and Matthew Dockins, appear, on paper, to be among the form teams. As will Dimitri Süess and Susanne Tanner. The Swiss combination were fourth in the mixed category at the SPAR Swiss Epic, in 2021. Therefore the Deinrad Orbea outfit and the American team of Talbot and Dockins will be among the teams to watch.
As are the Powder Creek Racing team of John and Shelley Peachell. The Canadian husband and wife team are documenting their Absa Cape Epic training on their Instagram profiles and to say they are committed is an understatement. What the debutants lack in Untamed experience they are certainly making up for in preparation.
Which they may well need as there are teams like the Meerendal Dani Schnider squad who have all the experience. Between them Paul Buhler and Sabina Compassi have 15 Absa Cape Epic finishes and have completed all seven races they have started together. While they may no longer be the fastest of the Toyota Mixed category teams they represent the other side of the competition. Where results start to decline in importance but experiences on and off the bike increase.
Glory comes in various forms at the Absa Cape Epic. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Toyota Mixed category, because the teams’ goals are more readily set. Be they to race to gain experience for the future, to challenge for the category title now, or simply to enjoy every moment of the race. Gloriously none of those goals are mutually exclusive either, the only limit is each team’s approach.