Posted: 21 March 2014
This Sunday, Scottish Cycling Performance Program mountain biker Rab Wardell will be competing in what is regarded as the mountain bike 'Tour de France' - the UCI HC categorised Absa Cape Epic in South Africa. Wardell is partnered with his professional team team-mate Ben Roff to form the Paarl Media Orange Monkey Pro pairing for the Elite Men’s category. Orange Monkey will also be represented in the Elite Womens race where South African rider Mariske Strauss will partner two time Cape Epic winner Hanlie Boonyens.
The Absa Cape Epic is now in it’s eleventh year and is regarded as the worlds leading mountain bike stage race. Competitors race in pairs and must complete the course together, at no point being more than two minutes apart. Riders must be self sufficient with no outside assistance. The race will be decided over eight stages and eight days, beginning with a 23 kilometer prologue time trial this Sunday 23rd of March in Meerendal Wine Estate. The longest stage of the race is 134 kilometers with 1800 meters of climbing. The race will cover 718 kilometers in total with 14,850 meters of climbing over the eight days.
The competition at the event is just as fierce with the defending champion, four time winner and reigning mountain bike Marathon World Champion Christoph Sauser partnered with former Grand Tour road racer Frantisek Rabon. Karl Platt of Team Bulls is also looking for his fifth overall victory in the Cape Epic with Swiss rider Urs Huber. Reigning Olympic Cross Country World Champion and Olympic Medalist Nino Schurter has partnered African Champion Philip Buys and Jose Hermida, the 2010 Olympic Cross Country World Champion and Athens Olympic Medalist, is partnered with Dutch rider Rudi Van Houts.
Rab and his Paarl Media Orange Monkey Pro team are aiming to be competitive in the eight day race. “The Epic is a big early season objective for me, in terms of a result, as finishing off preparation for Glasgow 2014 qualification and to improve my world ranking. Ben and I have had a good look at the profile of the course and the competition. Our overall aim is to finish in the top 15 of the Elite Mens category which will be hard, yet achievable.”
Rab has had an unlucky run into the epic but his fortunes have turned round recently. In the first two warm up races in South Africa illness and a concussion following a crash at the cascades classic have hindered him. Most recently in the Aramex Songo.info Champions Race invitational Rab showed good form finishing strongly and in the top 15 finishers.
Follow Rab in South Africa and keep upto date with Rab on Twitter at @RabWardell