The 2019 Absa Cape Epic was a heated eight days in Africa where Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing attacked each other day in and day out.
Blows were exchanged and heads were butted, but ultimately it was Nino Schurter and Lars Forster, from Switzerland, who claimed the coveted title of Absa Cape Epic champions.
Now, three years later, Schurter and Forster are back. And they mean business.
“My heart was bleeding while watching the 2021 Absa Cape Epic,” explained Schurter. “I wanted to be there, racing, and giving it my all, but I had nothing left in my tank after the longest season of my career. World Cups, the Olympics, Marathon and XCO Worlds all took their toll.”
Schurter and Forster are eager to return to Africa to show why they were winners in 2019; to support their endeavours, they’re armed with new race weapons and a backup team that’s sure to race to a top five finish.
“With the World Cup circuit expanding, my focus remains on XCO, except when it comes to my favourite marathon stage race.” said Schurter. “The new Scott Spark is made for the Absa Cape Epic. It is incredibly comfortable and amazingly fast. The extra travel, no compromise on weight or stiffness and the additional water bottles all ensures we’ll be up to the challenge when the going gets tough. Our second team, Andri [Frischknecht] and Juri [Ragnoli] are also brilliant riders; I hope we don’t need to rely on them for any technical assistance, but it’s a huge confidence boost knowing we have two world-class riders to work with.”
Forster added, “Based on the great experiences of 2019, I am looking forward to racing this year’s event. It’s the perfect way to start a season and with three weeks spent in South Africa ahead of the race, I’m sure we’ll be well acclimatised to the conditions.”
“We have a plan for the race, but I am not going to elaborate too much right now,” smiled Forster. “All I’ll say is that we’ll have an eye on the overall and the rest will be written during the race.”
Scott-SRAM MTB Racing’s second team sees Andri Frischknecht, who has two Absa Cape Epic finishes and two stage wins to his name, partner with Italy’s Juri Ragnoli.
“Juri is a full-time marathon racer, and we really want to secure some stage wins and finish high in the overall to secure valuable UCI points,” Frischknecht explained. “We’ll have a solid team plan for all of us before the race begins and, as we saw last time, a support team is important; if that’s the role we’re playing, we’ll focus fully on the job.”
While Frischknecht has an idea of what’s to come thanks to his experience during the Absa Cape Epic’s last venture into Greyton and surrounds in 2017, Ragnoli does not have that luxury but is thrilled about the racing to come.
“I’ve had aspirations of racing the Absa Cape Epic for years, but it was never a goal for my team, but that has changed thanks to SCOTT-SRAM, and I am very excited,” explained Ragnoli ahead of his Absa Cape Epic debut. “It’s brilliant to see how Nino and Frischi [Thomas] encourage us to enjoy our time on the bike and have fun because fast is fun and fun is fast; I’m ready for the Absa Cape Epic!”
Fans can watch SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing’s pursuit of the new Absa Cape Epic leader jerseys from 20 -27 March 2022 on cape-epic.com.