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The world's top ladies mountain bikers are overjoyed with the Absa Cape Epic's announcement of the matched Ladies prize purse to the Men's prize purse in 2014.

An increase to R690 000 for the Ladies purse now takes the race's total prize purse for all categories to R1 564 000 ($153 937).

 

Says previous Absa Cape Epic winner, Yolande de Villiers: "Sport brings out the true character of a person. Therefore it is fitting that Sasol Oil has shown its real character in empowering women by equalising the Ladies category prize money for the Absa Cape Epic to that of the Men. This is a moment for ladies cycling to rejoice and cherish, as for many years women have had to compete at the top of cycling without proper or full recognition for the sacrifice and devotion. This decisive step by Sasol Oil will create the catalyst and send a strong signal about equality in global cycling at this truly international event. I am thrilled that an iconic South African brand like Sasol shows world-class leadership in bringing equality for the sport I love at an internationally recognised event like the Absa Cape Epic. Sasol truly lives up to its mantra of 'Reaching new frontiers' as this is a first for women cycling at a global cycling event."

 

Two-times Absa Cape Epic winner, Sally Bigham, adds: "It's exciting and extremely encouraging to hear that the Absa Cape Epic and Sasol have matched the prize money in the Elite Men and Ladies categories. I sincerely hope that it sends a message to women, signaling that times are changing."

 

Esther Süss, 2012 Absa Cape Epic winner adds that it is really good news. "The Absa Cape Epic is pioneering the way for ladies in sport and it really is a step in the right direction for women's sport. A big thank you to the organisers and Sasol."

 

Hanlie Booyens won the inaugural 2004 Absa Cape Epic and went on to complete 5 more events, finishing on the podium on 5 occasions. "I believe the prize money is a very important incentive to attract the top riders from all over the world, but I also see it as a thumbs-up from the organisers, sponsors and hopefully media that the ladies component of this race is as worthy of acknowledgement as the men. And this goes for all the ladies who have completed and will complete this challenging event, not only the racers. Their commitment and sacrifices are as big as any of the men and perhaps even more so. They deserve to be recognised." To the question of whether the R45 000 hotspots will change the nature of the race, Booyens comments that "some teams, especially the cross country experts, may target the hotspots, which will lead to a fierce pace out of the blocks and some aggressive racing. I feel proud that the Absa Cape Epic has now reached this point! Viva ladies racing!"

 

Ariane Kleinhans will compete in the Ladies category for the first time next year. She is 2 times winner of the Mixed division with husband Erik Kleinhans. "It's a huge step towards equality in a sport that has been ruled by men so far. I know we don't have the same depth yet as the men but the top ladies are taking the sport very seriously and working extremely hard to be as strong as they are.The equalisation of theprize money showsthat people respect our performance and believe in us.I hope that other events will follow the trend, which the Absa Cape Epic is setting here." Kleinhans hopes the increased prize purse will motivate more women to participate. "Women in road cycling are fighting hard to just get the ladies Tour de France to happen and aremiles away from getting the same prize money as the men. I hope female mountain bikers understandhow muchthis announcement means and are motivated tolive up to the expectationsto grow in numbers as well as performance. Stage prize money definitely helps to make the race more interesting and is going to be a great motivator. I'd like to thank everyone who made this decision happen. As a professional rider that lives for this great sport,this personally means a lot to me."

 

This will be the second Absa Cape Epic for Cherise Stander. "I think it is absolutely amazing being treated on equal terms to that of the men. I believe this will attract even bigger names to the Absa Cape Epic and it's good to see that there is a change happening in the sport of professional cycling for women. On a personal level, it gives me a dream to reach for. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where money is very important and knowing that you can get a financial gain helps to motivate a person when going through that deep suffering."

 

Says Alan Cameron, Managing Director of Sasol Oil: "We're delighted to match the prize money for Ladies to that of the Men. We truly feel that women put in as much effort and dedication, and should be rewarded equally. We would like to wish all the women participating in next year's Ladies category all the best and look forward to welcoming the first ladies, and all those who follow, at Lourensford Wine Estate."

 

Founder of the Absa Cape Epic, Kevin Vermaak, concludes: "The matched prize money marks the start of a new era in the Ladies category of the Absa Cape Epic and we look forward to welcoming the top international as well as amateur riders to next year's event."

 

 

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