Swiss mountain bike champions Urs Huber and Konny Looser from team Stöckli Pro Team are teaming up for the first time at this year's Absa Cape Epic. The South African mountain bike stage race, now in its eighth year, will kick off with a prologue in Tokai Plantation, part of the Table Mountain National Park on Sunday, March 27 and end on April 3 at its long-established Lourensford Wine Estate finish.
Huber, 25, won the bronze medal in the marathon world championships in Italy in 2008, the European Championships in Germany in 2008 and the Swiss Championships in 2009. He is also the three-time winner of the iXS Swiss Bike Classic (2007-2009) and a two-time winner of the Crocodile Trophy in Australia (2009 and 2010). He has won over 50 races in his career to date.
Looser's achievements include winning the under 23 European marathon championships in 2010, winning the ICX Classic short distance in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and achieving a fifth place overall at the 2010 TransAlp.
Huber, who will be participating for the second time, believes the Cape Epic is the hardest stage race in the world for mountain bikers. "It's therefore a big challenge for me to take part this year with a new partner. However, we always know what the other one is thinking and always find the right thing to say to each other, which makes it a little easier. The race takes place in such a beautiful environment - a big highlight in my season," he said.
This will be the 22-year-old Looser's first Cape Epic, and he is looking forward to all the decision making that they will have to make as a team during the race. "Urs is a perfect teammate for me as we have the same attitude towards sport. We also share the same philosophy in terms of our training and the race - we're both really strong minded. On top of that, we have the same riding style on our bikes," Looser said.
According to Huber, "The competition is fierce, and it's definitely not easy to win. But we'll give it our best and with a little luck, I hope for a good result."
"We're not confident for a win, but it's still a possibility if everything goes according to plan and luck is on our side," said Looser. "During such a long race, so much can happen. We'll just do our best and who knows - maybe we'll win."
The Stöckli Pro Team started its training during December in Switzerland, followed by some training camps in France and Spain as the weather conditions there were warmer and more similar to South Africa's. During February, they also spent time with their team manager on the Canary Islands. In between, they trained at home - often in snowy conditions.
"The training during the last couple of months was really good for both of us. The support from our team was perfect and we'll startwith the best requirements and really fast new bikes," said Huber.
"Anything can happen - from flat tyres to other issues," said Looser. "But we'll always look forward and remind ourselves that every day is a new chance to win."
Looser said that he is looking forward to gaining all the experience that the Cape Epic will provide. "The Cape Epic is our first race together and going forward, we'll be one of the strongest teams in the world. One of our biggest ambitions this year will be our participation at the TransAlp." He is also aiming to defend his under 23 European marathon title.
"My major objectives for 2011 include participating in the marathon, Swiss, European and world championships," said Huber of his season's ambitions. "And then taking part in other stage races like the TransAlp and the Crocodile Trophy in Australia, apart from the Cape Epic, of course."