Ralph Näf makes his way through a deep river crossing during stage 3 of the 2011 Cape Epic, just in front of Lukas Flückiger
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Swiss duo shoots for podium finish
Lukas Flückiger will team up with Ralph Näf for this year's Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race on March 17 to 24. The Swiss duo will ride the 698km together as team BMC.
It will be the 29-year-old Flückiger's fourth Cape Epic. He finished fourth overall in 2010 and also has four stage wins to his name to date. 2013 will mark the first time that Flückiger is not riding with his younger brother Mathias.
"I really like the spirit and the location of the race. I like South Africa and its people," said Flückiger, who finished second at the 2012 cross country world championships.
"We see it as fun and not only as a race. Both of us have participated in the race before and know how to race over eight days. We're really confident that we can win one, two or three stages. However, it's hard to say what will happen in the GC. There are many strong teams this year, but our goal is to finish in the top three."
2012 eliminator world champion Näf will again prove that he has the ability to race fast whether over short or long distances. The 32-year-old will be doing his third Cape Epic and has previously earned two stage wins.
"It's a good way to start the 2013 season," said Näf. "Lukas and I are good friends, hopefully also after the Epic, and we both have the same goals. We'll have to see whether we're a good combination, but we'll have a lot of fun for sure and hopefully win a few stages and finish on the podium."
The two are doing a two-week training camp to prepare.
Flückiger said that he finds the first stages the most difficult and the final stage the most rewarding. "You're always over motivated and go over you limit. Crossing the finish line on the final stage is the most emotional time in the eight days. You feel so free. My best memory of the race was when Mathias and I won the final stage two years ago after a very difficult week with bad luck and illness."
His first Cape Epic was the toughest for Flückiger. "We didn't know we had to ride and made so many mistakes. We rode too fast in the first stages and burnt out in the last stages. Of course, the best part of the experience is to cross the finish line after eight days - it's always a great experience. The worst part is if you start not feeling well and try to recover during the week." The one word that sums up the event for him is "unpredictable".
Flückiger is hoping to back up his silver medal at the 2012 cross country Worlds with another medal at the 2013 Worlds in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Näf recalled that his favorite Cape Epic memory. "It was when José [Hermida] and I won our first stage together. We tried so hard for days before. The worst part of the race is getting up at 5:00 am and the best part is the food you get along the way."
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