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Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) sets the pace in the elite men's race.
Swiss rider will partner with World Champion Hermida
Switzerland's Ralph Näf will participate in this year's Absa Cape Epic as part of Multivan Merida Biking Team 3. The event, which will take place from March 27 to April 3, 2011, will take 1,200 cyclists through 707km of wilderness with 14,550m of climbing to finish eight days later at the Lourensford Wine Estate.
Näf boasts a number of titles and was the European Cross Country Champion in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010; Marathon World Champion in 2006, and second in the cross country world championships in 2007.
Returning for his second Cape Epic after completing it the first time in 2007, Näf said he loves stage races. "[Jose Antonio] Hermida and I had a bet that if either of us ever wears the World Championship jersey again, we'll do the Cape Epic the following year. That's exactly what happened - Hermida won it last year, so here we are."
"I also love the good weather during the race in South Africa when we still have snow in Europe. I spent many weeks of training in South Africa late last year and early this year, so it definitely is time to do my second Cape Epic."
Riding with close friend, Hermida, Näf reckons that you need to know your partner very well to finish the race without too many problems. "I think we'll have a lot fun, but of course also produces a lot of suffering. We need to win at least one stage - that's our goal and we'll give our all for it."
During season, Hermida and Näf see each other often. They share rooms when traveling. "We therefore train together a lot, and most of the time it's hard and fast. It's also not easy for a professional mountain biker to always stay light and skinny. For me, it's easier to lose weight in high altitude training."
Näf enjoys every day in the saddle, saying it is much better than sitting in an office. During the Cape Epic, he advises, "Never go over your limit. Stop to eat, drink and chat with your partner. We participate in the best sport there is. Do it for fun, set your goals and go out to achieve them."
In his free time, Näf enjoys spending time with his family and doing different sports. His aim for 2011 is to win the cross country world championships at home in Switzerland.