The Investec songo Specialized duo of Sipho Madolo and Christoph Sauser got their 2016 Absa Cape Epic campaign off to a solid start with a 1 hour 14 minute and 12 second blitz around the 26km Prologue route. Their time was good enough for 29th position in the open men’s category and sets them up well for the week ahead.
The result has helped settle Madolo’s nerves, though given all the added responsibility on his young shoulders of late he’s just happy that the Cape Epic is underway as he can now focus on what he loves best: riding his mountain bike. The occasion is particularly special for Madolo as he’s riding with the most decorated mountain biker of all time and a man who has gone from hero, to mentor, to friend: Christoph Sauser.
As the defending Cape Epic champion, Sauser has the honour of having team number one pinned to his and Madolo’s bikes all week. But with no aspirations of defending his title the race numbers serve as more of an hommage to the Cape Epic’s most successful rider than an indication of his 2016 goals. The 2016 Epic is all about Madolo and Sauser is imparting his hard earned experience on his young protégé and watching him blossom from the best vantage point; on Madolo’s wheel.
Now 25, Madolo has been in the songo.info programme virtually since its inception in 2008 and in 2010 he finally got the chance to meet his hero Sauser. Under Sauser’s guidance Madolo’s riding went from strength to strength to the point where in 2013 they rode Wines2Whales together. With Sauser officially retiring after the XCM World Championships in 2015 the opportunity arose for Sauser and Madolo to ride the 2016 Absa Cape Epic together. While Madolo is undoubtedly the star rider in the songo.info programme he’s also maturing into a natural leader for songo.info and has become fast friends with Sauser after many hours of training on the roads and trails around Stellenbosch.
The race is set to be a learning experience for Madolo alongside his quietly stated general classification ambitions – a top twenty finish is his dream goal. But off the bike 2016 is a big year for Madolo too, having finished his studies last year he’s now permanently employed by the songo.info programme and helping with the day-to-day running of the charity’s operations. The role is a natural fit as Madolo as he’s exceptionally dedicated and aware of his role model status within the community.
With the frantic prologue now behind them the Investec songo Specialized team transfer to Saronsberg Wine Estate, outside the picturesque town of Tulbagh, ahead of Stage 1 on Monday. Stage 1 is traditionally one of the Cape Epic’s toughest stages and the 2016 race will be no different as the route covers 108km with 2 200m of climbing, looping into the mountains surrounding Tulbagh before returning to Saronsberg.