German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini lit up the 2016 Absa Cape Epic with a thrilling win on the Grand Finale – the prestigious final stage.
Now the colourful duo is back and, says Avancini, aiming for the top step of the overall podium.
“The Cape Epic is my main focus for 2017, so our ambition is to fight for the win at the GC (General Classification),” the Brazilian explains. “We had a different approach in 2016. We had some goals and we achieved them all.”
The Cannondale Factory Racing pairing finished fourth overall last year and steadily clawed their way through the field after a disappointing 10th place on Stage 1. They finished second on Stage 6 before their Grand Finale triumph.
Fumic, a former under-23 world champion, is a legend on the international cross country circuit and often near the front in the World Cup series races. He is a little more circumspect than Avancini when discussing their ambitions for the race: “For sure we want stage wins, but we’re also targeting a good result in the overall classification.”
Both say they are not familiar with parts of the route this year, but Avancini adds: “At the moment we are in South Africa and we are riding similar stuff just to get used to the ground, and also testing some new setups.”
He thinks the route this year will make for a more open race than 2016: “I believe there is a bigger variation of stage profiles, and this might make things more interesting for the GC if you look at the list of starters. I’m crossing my fingers in the hope that we find as many nice trails to ride as we did last year.”
As Avancini suggests, the field for the 2017 men’s race is probably the strongest ever with seven or eight teams having the firepower to win the race overall and several other dark horses waiting in the wings.
Fumic can’t wait for the starting gun on March 19: “It’s a great riding experience, sharing with your partner and the team going through ups and downs each day. It is a unique race with a unique african nature.”
“It’s more than a race, it’s an amazing adventure,” says Avancini. “It is something that every real mountain bike rider must face at least once.”
Meanwhile, talented German pairing Martin Gluth and Julian Schelb (Silverback OMX) have confirmed that they will also be on the starting line when the Prologue kicks off at Meerendal Wine Estate.
Gluth rode the Cape Epic for the first time last year with another German, Sascha Weber and finished 11th overall. Gluth says the Cape Epic was a highlight of his 2016 season and he is looking forward to taking on the challenge again in 2017 with some experience of what to expect and how to handle it.
“In the Cape Epic you have always ‘ups and downs’. You can suffer like hell already after 30 minutes of a four-and-a-half hour stage, but the page can turn around from one moment to another.”
Gluth and Schelb both live in the German city of Freiburg, are good friends and train together.
Schelb will be taking on the Untamed African MTB Race for the first time and says: “I watched it live in 2015 and loved the atmosphere and the adventure paired with racing. Since then it has been a big goal for me to race this special race.”
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from 19 to 26 March and the much anticipated route can be viewed here.