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Riders in an Absa Cape Epic. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Riders in an Absa Cape Epic. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The 2022 Absa Cape Epic will feature some unlikely, if exciting, team partnerships when it resumes normal service at the end of March, with old foes breaking bread and a young man taking part who broke barriers at the Tour de France. 

Nic Dlamini, who became the first black South African in the Tour de France last year, will ride the Cape Epic with experienced mountain biker Oliver Munnik, while Karl Platt and Christoph Sauser, who have for years been fierce rivals at the Epic, announced they would team up. 

Platt and Sauser have each won the Epic five times, and it was their rivalry that has made them the most successful riders in the competition. The two have never been close, and the competition has been fierce, always with an edge. For them to form team songo.info NinetyOne Epic Legends, and to compete for the NTT Masters jersey must have taken some doing. 

As the Epic media release said: “Since their first head-to-head battle, at the 2006 Cape Epic, they have been the fiercest of rivals and there was little love lost in the early years. Platt won the Cape Epic in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2016; Sauser’s victories came in 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.”

“We have always been great rivals but with a lot of respect for each other,” said Platt, the German legend who rides for the Bulls team and won the first Epic with Namibia’s Mannie Heymans. “I think it says a lot about the sport that the two biggest rivals can race together.”

“The Cape Epic used to be in my head for pretty much all of my winter training as it was the kick-off to season. Now it’s totally different for me as I race in support of our charity, songo.info, to raise awareness, funds and to inspire the future generations,” Sauser said.

“I am really looking forward to riding with Karl. There’s nothing better than racing through the trails in the Western Cape, and doing it in the NTT Masters category will be a lot better than eating dust like in the Elite category.” 

Platt too is looking forward to the occasion. “The competitive fire is burning, but I must honestly say that when I see the pros racing and how fast they start, I’m really happy not to have to wake up three hours before the start and go through the whole breakfast-and-prep-and-warm-up routine. Now I just wake up late and roll to the start,” he said.

That won’t be true for Dlamini, the 26-year-old known as the Champ from Capricorn Park, a township near Muizenberg. Dlamini represented SA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and with his professional road team, Team Qhubeka, having struggled to find a sponsor to keep them in the first rank of the World Tour, he has been allowed to explore other avenues.  

Dlamini and Munnik are both part of twins, and, as they will be backed by Absa, the Epic’s main sponsor, have taken on the name “Team Absa Amawele”, meaning “twins” in isiXhosa. 

“I’m extremely excited to be taking on the challenge of one of the most iconic cycling events — the Cape Epic. Having ridden at some of the world’s biggest races including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, to now have the opportunity to experience the Cape Epic as a part of Team Absa is a real privilege,” Dlamini said.

“This opportunity will enable me to continue to grow as a rider and that is a vital step in my journey and that of Team Qhubeka as we aim to once again compete on the highest level, and return to the Tour de France one day.

“I’ll be relying extensively on my ‘twin’ Oli throughout. His technical nous is going to be invaluable, while his mechanical skills during the race are going to be key in getting us, and more specifically me, through the difficult moments.” 

Munnik is an Epic veteran, having ridden his first in 2007.  “With minimal mountain biking experience, Nic has taken to riding off-road well. Watching him gain more and more confidence on the single tracks has been awesome and we’re on track to being ready for the Epic.

“I’ll never forget lining up for my first Epic in 2007, butterflies abuzz. I’m really excited to be partnering with Nic on his first attempt at the world’s toughest MTB Race.”

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