Cross country world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo Racing) will team up with Philip Buys to race the 2014 Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa from March 23 to 30. Although both have previously done the race, the Swiss - South African duo will compete together for the first time.
Schurter, 27, is a three-time World Cup overall winner and has 11 World Cup round wins to his name. He is also a two-time Olympic medallist while Buys, 24, is the current African cross country champion with four Cape Epic races already under his belt.
Schurter said, "We're racing together for the first time, and I'm looking forward to it. Philip is a great guy and a great talent. His experiences on stage races in the South African heat and my experiences in cross country races will make us super strong. Our goal is to win the race. You always need a little bit of luck to successfully complete the Cape Epic."
Honored to compete with one of the fastest riders on the planet, Buys said, "I'm slightly nervous, but my excitement overpowers the nervousness. And I feel confident! We have great support, ride the best equipment and are training hard, so we're making sure our chances are good."
The two have done some training camps together in Stellenbosch to prepare themselves.
"My training is different to that of previous years. I'm focusing more on stage races in the first half of the year, so I'm training more on long distance," said Schurter, who will also race two road stage races: the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de Romandie.
Buys had made the Cape Epic the highlight of his season. "In previous years, the Cape Epic just formed part of my buildup for the rest of the season. This year, the event is a peak of my 2014 season with preparations starting a few weeks earlier."
Schurter expressed confidence in their chances. "Cape Epic routes are always tough, but our combined skills and experience will make us one of the favourite teams for first place."
While Buys is planning a day by day approach. "We both have a few years' experience racing the Cape Epic, and I think we're both very efficient bike riders - efficiency is key to winning this race."
Schurter will never forget his first Cape Epic: "During my first event in 2010 I bonked while in the lead with Florian Vogel on the last 10km of a stage. This experience I will never forget."
Buys fondly remembered sprinting for a stage win with Matthys (Beukes) on the final day at last year's Cape Epic.
"I think this year's race will be an enjoyable experience and the more fun we have, the less the pain will be and the better our result will be. I'm excited for the challenge!" said Buys.