In the Ladies category this year, the Absa Cape Epic welcomes back Esther Süss (37) of Switzerland and partner Sally Bigham (33) of England. These two ladies will be riding under the team name Wheels4life.This year's race, which takes place from 25 March to 1 April 2012, will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape's most unspoilt territory. The race will kick-off with the prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and will finish at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate.

This will be the fourth Absa Cape Epic for Süss. "It's always a good and strong training session which I enjoy. The race is also wonderful and it's a great inspiration with a lot of good experience. I also like South Africa," adds Süss.

Süss will be riding with Bigham, who will be facing her third Absa Cape Epic this year. Adds Bigham: "A race season would not be complete without the Cape Epic. It's a major part of my race calendar and I'd be upset if it wasn't. I love the race, the people and South Africa - that's why I keep coming back."

Bigham is very excited to be riding with Süss and is confident that they will be a very strong team. She adds that she is unsure as of yet if they will be a winning combination until they cross the finish line at Lourensford Wine Estate

Both Bigham and Süss have many accolades to their names. Süss has been the Swiss champion in cross-country and the winner of numerous national marathon and cross-country races. She placed 3rd in the World Cup in Offenburg (Germany), 5th overall in the Crosscounty Worldcup in 2010 as well as becoming the World, European and Swiss Marathon Champion in 2010. Bigham has come first in the British National Marathon Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and placed 2nd overall in the Trans Germany in 2011 and received 2nd place in the European Marathon  Championships in 2011. Last year, Bigham also achieved 1st place overall in the Absa Cape Epic ((Ladies category) and came 1st in the UCI World ranking marathon.

Unfortunately for these two, they have yet to train together. Says Bigham: "We've raced each other many times, but we've never trained together or raced as a team before." When training independently, Süss says that it is difficult to explain as it changes from week to week. In terms of her diet though, she eats healthily. Bigham, however, has a more structured training schedule. "I've just finished a 3 week training camp in Gran Canaria where I rode between 3 and 6 hours six times a week. These sessions were mixed with different types of intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 45 minutes. I don't have a special diet as such other than eating lots! I love food!"

Fortunately, neither of these two have any injuries which could affect their performance. "Injuries are scary for any athlete and I'm always taking care to avoid them. At the moment all is OK and hopefully it will stay that way," adds Bigham. Both are unsure of podium finishes this year, but Süss believes that their chances are not too bad. Adds Bigham: "I'm a little bit superstitious and I don't want to jinx us! Of course we want to win stages and make the podium in the GC, but there's a lot of hard work to be done and we also need luck to be on our side. Fingers firmly crossed!"

Süss has many fond memories of the race but when it comes to the most difficult stages, she mentions "stage 5 or 6 are the worst because by then my whole body is tired. I can't describe the feeling though when crossing the finish line! There are no words in English...I'm just so happy if I manage to ride all the stages."

For Bigham the first stage is the most difficult as she is very nervous then. "But when I cross the finish line, it's totally overwhelming. All of the emotions that you've had to keep under control for the last 8 days can finally come flooding out. I get goose bumps just thinking about it," says Bigham.

Her fondest memory of the race was when she and her 2011 partner, Karien van Jaarsveld, approached the finish line at Lourensford Wine Estate to win the Ladies. "This year, I'm looking forward to seeing all the other riders as it's such a great atmosphere. I'm also looking forward to racing with Esther and to do some hard riding."

In her free time, Bigham enjoys going for coffee and cake with her friends and when she has the time, get some windsurfing in. "In 2012, I want to be happy and healthy, and if I can achieve that then hopefully I'll also win some races."

"In my free time, I enjoy reading and baking. This year, I'm hoping to qualify for the Olympics in London!!" adds Süss.

Süss advises other participants that they must listen to their body. If you do not plan enough recovery time, you will struggle. "Don't go too fast during the first few days. Just have fun and enjoy the race otherwise you'll struggle to finish the Cape Epic."

Bigham adds: "Prepare well. Think about everything you will need for the whole 8 days, both on and off the bike. Good preparation beforehand will mean that you can spend more time relaxing during the race." She believes that besides good preparation, excellent communication with your partner and good nutrition on and off the bike are vital - "in other words", she adds, "lots of eating!"

Süss concludes: "Have fun if you can and enjoy what you do, especially if it's your profession. It's a privilege if it becomes your profession. You must also work hard for your dream and never give up!"

From 25 March to 1 April, all eyes will be on the Western Cape as the world's top riders vie for a position in what is billed to be the most competitive event in the race's history. Covering a distance of 781km with 16 300m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.