Cape Epic countdown

The Cape Epic off road stage race will kick off its fourth edition this weekend. Racers from 42...

The Cape Epic off road stage race will kick off its fourth edition this weekend. Racers from 42 nations will contest the 886km course from Knysna on Saturday, March 24 to Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West on March 31. They will compete in teams of two in one of four categories -- Men, Ladies, Mixed, and Masters -- and will climb 15,045 meters. A new route is designated every year.

This year's edition will see the participation of Olympic gold medallists, world champions, and reigning UCI World Cup champions, in part because this stage race awards UCI points and in part because of its timing, three weeks before the first cross country World Cup. The pros can race, but still squeeze in a rest period before the World Cup.

Every one of the previous six winners has entered again this year. Pros Christoph Sauser, Ralph Naef, Bart Brentjens, Greg Minnaar and Thomas Frischknecht will be competing. Sauser is back to defend his 2006 win. Seventeen-time World Cup winner and Olympic medalist Thomas Frischknecht will be partnering with mountain biking legend Tom Ritchey, founder of Ritchey Logic. Frischknecht will not be competing to win, but is partnering with Ritchey to promote Project Rwanda, Ritchey's own initiative which is structured to benefit the coffee growers in Rwanda by providing them with specially modified bikes for the transportation of their goods.

Bart Brentjens, the 2005 winner of the Absa Cape Epic, Olympic gold medalist with four World Cup wins and the title of Overall World Cup Winner in 1994 will partner with fellow Dutch rider Rudy van Houts. Ralph Naef, reigning UCI world marathon champion will ride with Spaniard and Multivan Meridan teammate Jose Hermida.

An unexpected entry is Greg Minnaar, South Africa's own downhill star. Minnaar will be competing in the Mixed classification with Hannele Steyn-Kotze, one of South Africa's top female racers.

Cyclingnews' diarist Myriam Saugy will also be competing. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete daily race updates and regular diary entries chronicling her experience in the race.

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