Each year, the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race draws many of mountain biking's top current and former racers. The 2013 edition of the race attracted 10 world champions to the start line. They took a time out during the busy week to pose for a group shot.
World champions or not, several of the pre-race favorites shared their thoughts upon finishing the eighth and final day of competition on Sunday in Lourensford, South Africa.
Multivan Merida Team
Multivan Merida's Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts ended the race on a high note by winning the final stage on Sunday.
"We have finished in the best possible way. A victory in the last stage is a great reward for the work we have done these days," said Hermida. "Our legs have worked great and the teamwork has been perfect."
Multivan Merida made the selection into the front group on the last day, and finally it was just down to them and the South African Scott team of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes.
"When I saw that we could not open a gap, I told Rudi that we would go for the sprint. I knew the last meters of the stage ,and I managed to be first in the last corner; Rudi just had to be second or third. It was great. The Cape Epic is a very special race and we feel proud of today's victory and of wearing the leader's jersey in the second stage."
The Multivan-Merida team finished fourth overall and claimed two stage wins.
Scott Swisspower Team
Cross country world champion Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel had an unfortunate start to the Cape Epic, but they came on strong toward the end, finishing on the podium in stages 5 and 7.
Their ambitions going into the race were high, but a high speed crash by Vogel during the prologue resulted in a knee injury that would cause much suffering in subsequent stages.
"I fell on my back and bruised my knee. Then, I had some fluid building up in my leg," said Vogel. "I was in pain all day long, suffering big time just to hold Nino's wheel. If it was for me only, I probably would have dropped out. But I did not want my partner let down."
Schurter proved he is already in good form and sometimes had the extra time and energy to wheelie in front of the race photographers.
The pair finished 13th overall.
"Too bad we started out with Florian's crash," said Schurter. "I'm sure we were in better shape than our overall result shows. It's a team event and both of the riders need to be at the top to compete for the overall. But the two podium places at the end were at least a good finish of a tough week."
Scott-Swisspower team manager Thomas Frischknecht raced as part of Schurter and Vogel's back-up team and finished fifth overall in the masters category.
"Not bad for to old guys," said Frischknecht in a post-race team press release.
Scott Factory Racing Team
Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys of the Scott Factory Racing team won the overall Best Africans classification. The pair raced for a stage win on the final day and were narrowly outsprinted by Hermida and van Houts.
"We never really pushed to our limits at all during the race and we both felt good at the start today, so we decided to give the stage win a go," said Beukes. "Having live TV coverage definitely motivated us because we knew it was a good way to reward our sponsors and supporters."
Buys was first into the final left-hand turn and over the finish line, but Beukes was unable to come around the Merida riders to secure the stage win. The stage result is measured by the second team member's position over the finish line, which made Hermida and Van Houts the winners.
Buys and Beukes finished race in sixth overall. Their award as the best African team came along with a new trophy, the Burry Stander Memorial Trophy, which was presented to them by Stander's wife, Cherise Stander.
"This result has been a huge lift for both Matthys and me. We have learned a lot during this race about the importance of patience and planning. It's undoubtedly been a career highlight for both of us," said Buys.
Bart Brentjens, manager of the Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team, raced with South African Robert Sim. The duo won the prologue and the final stage and ended up second overall in the masters category.
"The Cape Epic is the Tour de France of mountain biking," said Brentjens, who won last year.
"It's a perfectly organized race through beautiful South African scenery with the top riders in the sport of mountain biking. It is a great race to do, for pro athletes and mountain bike enthusiasts. Everybody helps each other out struggling with the same challenge. Also the two-person team combination makes this race special. I can't wait to come back next year."