Spaniard José Hermida and Dutchman Rudi van Houts will participate in this year's Cape Epic starting on Sunday as team Multivan Merida. Hermida, 35, and Van Houts, 30, are a fun-loving pair who are famous for showing spectators what world class mountain biking is all about.
"The Cape Epic is a perfect race to tune your shape for the World Cups, but it is difficult to fight for the overall victory if you have other goals in the season, as it wears yourself out brutally," said Hermida. "Yet, last year we got the leader’s jersey, and it was a great honor to wear it. And of course, once you see yourself up there, passion moves you further than what you would have expected."
Hermida's palmarès speak for themselves. He has completed five Cape Epics, with a total of five stage wins. He took silver at the 2004 Olympic Games and fourth place at the 2012 Olympics. In 2010, he was the cross country world champion and he holds three gold medals at the European cross country championships.
Fresh-faced Van Houts is no softy and has garnered some impressive titles. Apart from his five stage wins at the Cape Epic (riding with Bart Brentjens and Hermida respectively), he is a two-time Dutch cross country champion and has been voted Dutch Mountain Biker of the Year three times. With two victories at the Grand Finale of the Cape Epic into Lourensford Wine Estate (in 2010 and 2013), they definitely have what it takes to get the job done.
According to Hermida, who will be giving amateur riders a witty summary of the day's events in the dining marquee some evenings, the decision to participate in this year's Cape Epic was easy. He said, "I love this race and I feel completely at home. It also fits in my cross country calendar and preparation perfectly, as well as being a goal for me."
"This could be the year that Rudi and I finish on the podium. As a cross country rider, I think we have a good chance to win a stage, but that's what other riders also want. The competition will be tough."
Van Houts said, "This will be my fourth Cape Epic. I love stage races, and I'm confident that José and I can take another stage win this year."
Hermida and Van Houts do not train together much during the winter ahead of the Cape Epic, but "After our training camp in Mallorca with the team, we trained in Cyprus. As soon as the season started, the Mulitivan Merida team trains, travels and races together."
Hermida is looking forward to this year's race. "Rudi and I often talk about our requirements, our plans for the event, bike accessories, recovery foods and so on. We're looking for the same or better results than last year. We'll see how the race develops."
Van Houts said, "I'm looking forward to the fun and seeing others suffer a bit more than us."
Hermida's favourite part of the race is "the light during the first hour of the race. The sun is not up yet, the air is dusty from the riders, long gravel roads lie ahead - I just love it."
For Van Houts, "It's incredible to win a stage, especially on the last day into Lourensford Wine Estate."