The Canyon Northwave teams are unquestionably among the favourites for the 2023 race.
Their pedigree speaks for them. As does their historic success at the Absa Cape Epic. Yet, one cannot help but feel they have unfished business at the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race.
In 2021 Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek won Stage 3 in what appeared to be a momentum shifting attack. The next day Stošek withdrew from the race with a stomach bug. In 2022 they dominated Stage 1 and held a firm grip on the yellow Ciovita leader jerseys. Sadly for Seewald a crash on his way to that victory came back to haunt him later in the race, as his body began to tighten up as Speed Company Racing surged ever closer. On Stage 7 of last year’s race Canyon Northwave lost the race despite a 2 minute 45 second lead.
Understandably the team are thus highly motivated to avoid the mistakes which cost them in previous years. To aid in this attempt Seewald and Stošek will be joined by Petr Vakoč and Marc Stutzmann of Canyon Northwave 2. The assistance of a support team will provide the insurance of having a rolling set of spare wheels nearby and aid in the chasing down of dangerous attacks, should any of the team’s rivals make a potentially race-changing move.
“After last year’s second place we are of course aiming for the podium again,” Stošek confirmed of their ambitions for 2023. “Andreas and I learned to cooperate well last season; so, I think that there is a good chance to have a strong race.”
Their cooperation clearly extends to how the pair express their race goals, as Seewald’s views echoed his partners: “We clearly aim for a podium spot and if things go smooth, for example if I don't hurt myself again on Stage 1, we will also be going for the overall victory.”
“The route looks like it will contribute to be tight racing until the Grand Finale,” the 2021 World Marathon Champion predicted. “The time trial on Stage 4 could provide the decisive time gaps however.”
Stošek was also eager to point out that the team’s reasons for returning to Africa extended beyond their desire to win the Absa Cape Epic, though that of course was essential too. “For me, personally, it’s the greatest experience of the year,” the Czech rider said. “It is also the most important event of my season, together with the Marathon World Championships. The atmosphere, the routes and the people all come together to make a very special race. The Absa Cape Epic provides a week of racing in one of the nicest places in the world and the platform to take on the best riders in the world too.”
Newcomer to the race, Vakoč, is undaunted by the unknown. “It will be my first participation,” the 30-year-old from Prague stated. “I’m excited about everything that lies ahead! It is something I have been looking forward to for years. I have done the Tour de France twice and I would rank the Absa Cape Epic just below that as a must do event.”
Vakoc, a former professional for Soudal–Quick-Step (2014-2019) and Alpecin-Fenix (2020-2021) was part of Mathieu van der Poel’s 2021 Tour de France team as well as the 2016 Tour when Marcel Kittel won a stage for the then Etixx - Quick Step squad. His partner, Stutzmann, hails from Switzerland and placed fifth in the mountainous Marathon World Championships which Seewald won in 2021.
To see if the Canyon Northwave team can achieve in 2023 what they failed to do in 2021 and 2022 tune in to the Absa Cape Epic from Sunday, the 19th of March. The race will be broadcast live on www.epic-series.com/capeepic, and mountain biking fans can follow all the action from Meerendal Wine Estate to Val de Vie Estate, eight days later.