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Urs Huber of Team Bulls chases with Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida during stage 4 of the 2013 Cape Epic
Partnerships are key at the Cape Epic
Four-time Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser will take on the 2014 edition of the race with Frantisek Rabon, a former roadie who has switched to mountain bike racing. In recent years, Sauser has won the race with the late Burry Stander and Jaroslav Kulhavy, but the Czech rider broke his knee and will have to sit out the 2014 Cape Epic.
Sauser, who has won marathon and cross country mountain bike world titles, will race as part of team Meerendal-Songo-Specialized. Although 2014's new partnership with Rabon is untested, the same could be said of him and teammate Kulhavy before they dominated the 2013 event.
"I'm delighted that I've found a very strong partner in Rabon. He has a great character and personality," said Sauser. "He's also committed to win the 2014 Cape Epic. However, many unexpected scenarios can happen, which we're very aware of."
Rabon said, "It's such an honour to ride with Christoph. He's such a legend and we've become really good teammates, so I feel really good about us riding together."
Schurter pairs up with Buys
Cross country world champion Nino Schurter and Philip Buys will be competing as team Scott-Odlo Racing. Schurter is a specialist when it comes to cross country races lasting about 90 minutes. As a world champion, there is little doubt that his immense physiology and skill will carry him to an elusive stage win and perhaps a podium spot overall.
"We're racing together for the first time and I'm really looking forward to it," said Schurter. "Philip has great experience with stage races in the African heat, and I've got experience in cross country races. This will make us super strong."
In turn, local lad Buys demonstrated he is up to this monumental task when he dueled José Hermida and Rudi van Houts to the finish line in Lourensford last year.
Buys said, "I feel honoured to ride with the fastest rider on the planet. Although slightly nervous, my excitement overpowers it."
Mixed category champion Ariane Kleinhans will be riding in the women's category for the first time with Annika Langvad. No doubt that all eyes will also be on Karl Platt, another favourite who won the Cape Epic four times, when he partners again with Urs Huber as the old "tried and tested" team.
Kleinhans has foregone her partnership with husband Erik to participate this year with Langvad, who might be seen as a newbie, but the two-time marathon world champion, Danish cross country and time trial champion is a good match.
"Annika and I previously participated in a stage race where we won every stage as well as the overall," said Kleinhans. "It was a very good test for our new partnership. We made a really good team both on and off the bike. We're very motivated to go for the overall win."
Langvad said, "Even though we're two very different riders with two completely different histories, somehow everything just fits together."
Platt and Huber will ride together for the second time as the Bulls. The Swiss/German team proved last year that they never give up fighting.
"I think we had a very successful partnership last year and we're looking forward to this year's event," said Platt.
Huber said, "Our second place in the 2013 Cape Epic was a sign that we're a good team. Our goal is to win, which means we have to be focused and concentrate during the whole week, without making any mistakes."
The 2014 Cape Epic will cover 718km with 14,850m of climbing starting on March 23. It will visit the towns of Robertson, Greyton and Elgin, and finishing eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.