Until a week ago Max Knox (Ghost/Do-it-now) told everybody that he would not defend his DCM Cape Pioneer Trek title because he did not have a partner. He had planned to team up with Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka), but when Jacques Janse van Rensburg signed a contract to ride for MTN-Qhubeka, matters changed.
"Perhaps it happened for the best. It has been a long season, and I have been on an emotional roller coaster ride. Not many people realize what I had to deal with off my mountain bike this year. Mid-season I even had to battle to have a job as a professional mountain biker.
"I don't want to go into all the details because it may sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself, which is not the case. I am just grateful to Ghost/Do-it-now for giving me a second chance," Knox said last week.
Merely 24 hours later, everything changed.
Christopher Sauser (Specialized), the Swiss world marathon champion, announced that he was looking for a partner. Sylvio Bundi, his teammate of last year, can no longer come to South Africa due to parental obligations.
To make a long story short, Knox will team up with Sauser.
Sauser has become one of the stalwarts of the Cape Pioneer Trek. He has made it clear on more than one occasion that he does not want to miss this race.
"I have so much fun during and after the stages when I race the Cape Pioneer Trek. For me it feels like a great holiday," said Sauser. "The staff and riders become like members of my family during the six days of the Trek. The comradeship among the riders is unbelievable."
"The Cape Pioneer Trek is not only about racing and winning. After the stages we have so much to laugh and joke about, not to mention the legendary parties that we enjoy. The race is always superbly organized."
However, being the ultimate professional, Sauser has changed his goals somewhat. It will no longer be a case of merely having fun. "Now that I will be riding with Max, my perspective has changed. He is, after all, the defending champion and I cannot let him down," said Sauser.
"Even though it has been a long, hard season, I am still in an incredibly good shape. If Max wants to win, I am his man. I will rather ride faster, having an exciting race, with more time to relax in the afternoons, than still be out on the course, melting in the afternoon sun."
If he and Knox should win the Cape Pioneer Trek, Sauser would make South African cycling history. It would be the first time that the same rider wins South Africa's two toughest mountain bike tours, namely the Absa Cape Epic and the Cape Pioneer Trek, in the same calendar year.
Sauser won the Epic with Burry Stander earlier this year.