Kicking off the 2015 mountain bike season is the Absa Cape Epic, which starts March 15 in Cape Town, South Africa. Now in its 12th year, this year’s 8-day paired stage race offers what riders are calling the strongest and most competitive field yet.
In the women’s, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, the most dominant rider in cross-country mountain biking history makes her debut and helps to make what is the most competitive women’s field yet. She was vocal in stating that she had previously refused to race the event based on unequal prize money between male and female. For 2014, this was changed and so Dahle Flesja will be competing for the first prize of R200,000 (Approx US$16,434).
“The organisation should be proud of themselves for offering equal pay. The pairs racing may help encourage teams to add an extra female to their rosters too. Currently most women race the Cape Epic in mixed teams, but this event is big enough and can make a difference to teams.” Dahle Flesja said.
Dahle Flesja riding for the World Bicycle Relief team will be racing with 2014 eliminator world champion Kathrin Stirnemann and goes into the race as a serious threat, but also a major unknown.
Returning as the defending champions and race favourites is Team RECM Specialized, with Anika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans. Langvad is a three-time marathon world champion and Kleinhans is a stage race specialist. With so much singletrack in this year’s event, Kleinhan’s local knowledge of the trails is surely to play a factor in the result.
Ester Suss is another race favourite having won the event twice before (one in mixed catergory) and will this year be racing with 26-year-old Alice Pirard, the reigning Belgian marathon champion.
As a previous race winner, Sally Bigham will be racing with Austrian Christina Kollmann, following a last minute change after former teammate Blaža Klemenčič pulled out due to injury.