Mixing It Up

The Toyota Mixed Category has at times provided a launch pad for future UCI women’s contenders to gain Absa Cape Epic experience and at others simply been a sight shootout between teams with a dedicated focus on the mixed competition at that year’s race. 2024 appears to be shaping up to be the latter, which augers well for the racing… 

The Toyota Mixed Category is one of those competitions within the Absa Cape Epic where some years produce overwhelming favourites. Often this happens when a young, elite woman teams up with an older elite, or former elite, man to gain experience in the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race without the pressure of starting in the UCI Women’s field. A prime example of this was when Jenny Rissveds dominated alongside Thomas Frischknecht, in 2017. While a reversal of that trope took place in 2023 when Ibon Zugasti and Alice Pirard faced off against Riaan Weideman and Samantha Sanders. With both teams entirely focused on that race the battle was thrilling throughout.

2024 could unfolded similarly, as Weideman and Sanders are back for Toyota Gazoo Racing. This year they will be up against e-FORT’s Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius and Alexander Lawrance, Team CPUT Mixed’s Sarita and Etnard Louw, Find The X Racing’s Julia Carrion and Marcel Gimenez Vidal, newcomers Lars Herold and Michaela Barz-Herold of GPD-Racing, Springbok rugby legend Joel Stransky and Rouxda Groble of DriveTrain and an as yet unnamed American team made up of Randy Egues and Helena Gilbert-Snyder.

Sanders, as a former South African XCM Champion and three-time Absa Cape Epic finisher earns the right to start as favourite. Especially seeing as she and Weideman were relatively narrow runners up in 2023. Their likely closest challengers will be the e-FORT, DriveTrain and the combination of Egues and Gilbert-Snyder. The latter is a formidable ultra-distance racer on the American gravel and mountain biking scene, splitting her focus between racing, working for Specialized Bicycles and advocacy work to get more girls racing bikes competitively.

For Stransky the 2024 race offers an opportunity for an Absa Cape Epic victory, which has thus far eluded him across 12 finishes in four categories. His best result was third, in the Grand Masters competition alongside Andrew Mclean in 2018. Grobler, despite making her Untamed debut, has a wealth of racing experience and has stood atop the podium in many races in her home province, Kwa-Zulu Natal. 

Other interesting pairings, who will probably not feature near the sharp end of the Toyota Mixed category, are the Meerendal - DANi Schnider and Exxaro/PEPTO teams. Sabina Compassi, one of the SPAR Swiss Epic’s most celebrated riders, and Paul Buhler have completed eight Absa Cape Epic’s together and are a good gauge of any aspiring mixed racing team’s performances.

Omphile Motaung meanwhile will be hoping to learn from Kabelo Alphues Maduna in her second Absa Cape Epic. Motaung won both the Exxaro Women’s and the Amateur Women’s jerseys in her first outing last year. Though the result was good in isolation she has subsequently grown as a rider completing the Freedom Challenge and winning the Exxaro competition at Wines2Whales. Racing alongside Alphues Maduna, who has two top 100 general classification finishes to his palmarès, will force Motaung to a new level. Which is exciting for her future as a bike racer.