March 13, 2008 (Cape Town) – The countdown has started — only a few weeks until the fifth edition of the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas, The Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race, will take off. On Friday 28 March 2008, 1200 riders from 41 countries will embark on a gruelling and adventurous 9-day journey through South Africa’s Western Cape. Competing in teams of two, they will ride 966km from the Garden Route town of Knysna to Lourensford Estate in Somerset West near Cape Town, where they arrive on Saturday 5 April 2008. On their way, the participants will climb approximately 18 529m, including some of the most magnificent passes in South Africa.
2008 sees the most competitive field ever in the history of the Absa Cape Epic. Since the pro riders who rode last year’s race had excellent results in the UCI MTB World Cup, many national team trainers will send their top athletes to the renowned stage race as preparation for the Olympic Games in Beijing. One of the top contenders is Christoph Sauser, the reigning World and European Mountain Bike Marathon Champion. Sauser, who has eleven World Cup wins to his name and won the Absa Cape Epic in 2006 with his friend and fellow Swiss rider Silvio Bundi, will team up with Burry Stander this year, the current African and South African XC MTB Champion. It will be Stander’s first Absa Cape Epic and also the first time that these two race together as a team to raise funds for the Songo.info charity. “I felt that I wanted to give something back to South Africa,” says Christoph Sauser. “My winter training base is the beautiful Boland town of Stellenbosch and the beneficiary of my participation will be the community of Kayamandi, a township on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.”
Other top riders racing in what is billed to be the most competitive MTB stage race on the international racing programme for 2008 are: the first Olympic Gold medallist Bart Brentjens who teams up with the 2006 Marathon World Cup winner in Mont Saint-Anne, Alban Lakata (Dolphin); last year’s Absa Cape Epic winners Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (Bulls); former ACE champion and multiple World Cup winner Roel Paulissen racing with the reigning U23 XC MTB World Champion Jakob Fuglsang (Cannondale Vredestein 1); multiple Swedish Champion Fredrik Kessiakoff who teams up with the 2004 Marathon World Champion Massimo Debertolis (Full-Dynamix-RSM); Rune HÃ¸ydahl who claimed eleven world cup victories in his career and Kristian Torgersen (HÃ¸ydahl 3); the living mountain biking legends Thomas Frischknecht and Tom Ritchey (Project Rwanda); former Pan American Champion Jeremiah Bishop and Chris Eatoph, winner of the 2007 BC Bike Race and of six 24-hour solo world titles (Trek VW); multiple TransAlp Champion Carsten Bresser and former Team Telekom star Udo Boelts (Rocky Mountain/ Cube); marathon specialist Pia Sundstedt and multiple World Champion and World Cup winner Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain Girls); two times Pan American Champion Susan Haywood and X-terra triathlete Jennifer Smith (Trek VW WSD); last but not least South Africa’s top contenders, Kevin Evans who placed third at the 2005 Absa Cape Epic and three-time Giro del Capo winner David George (MTN Energade 1).
Out of the 600 teams participating in this year’s Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas, 61 percent will start in the Men category, 25 percent in the Masters category, 10 percent in the Mixed and only 4 percent in the Ladies category. More than two thirds of the field are from South Africa. 91 percent of the riders are male, 9 percent female. The youngest participant of the 2008 Absa Cape Epic, South African Christiaan Kriek, is 18 years old. 65-year-old Geoff Palister from Gauteng (RSA) is the eldest contestant in this year’s race. “It’s a rather weird feeling, since I have never thought of myself as being old, especially when cycling,” he says. “All my cycling buddies are relatively young and they certainly give me no slack in deference to my age.” Palister teams up with his 20-year-old cycling buddy Mark Evans.
Soon mountain bike riders will start their epic journey to get to Knysna, the starting point of the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas. They will travel from as far afield as Australia, China, Finland, New Zealand, the USA, Brazil and Venezuela just to continue their gruelling journey, on two wheels that is.