The Cape Epic in South Africa is undoubtedly the biggest mountain biking event in the world. Established in 2004 and with 1,200 riders every year, it's a reference point for all other races and one that we aspire towards as we grow La Leyenda year on year here in Colombia. This year there were nine Leyenda representatives in the Epic, all of who either competed in Colombia last year or who will be coming for our second race in a few months time. We were following progress very closely in the middle of night and were delighted to see three time World Champion and five time Epic winner, Christoph Sauser and his partner Jaroslav Kulhavy, take two stage wins for Investec-Songo-Specialized, but unfortunately they narrowly missed out on victory to Olympic Champion Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann.
However, it was great to see former World Champion, Switzerland's Esther Suss, take victory in the Women's category with Jennie Stenerhag from Sweden as Team Meerendal - Cape Brewing. They dominated the race after the first few stages and withstood several attacks, but their triumph was made even more special as Jennie underwent heart surgery last year, showing her true resilience and making a stunning comeback to competitive mountain biking.
"It was an amazing week. There were hard fights, lots of suffering, but overall many happy moments. It's great to win the Epic and shows my training's been good over the winter," said Esther when reflecting on her victory.
Elsewhere, Leyenda 2016 Champion Leonardo Páez finished fourth in the Men's UCI category, just missing out on the podium in his Epic debut and there was a strong performance from the Spaniards at Team Buff-Scott, with Adriá Noguera, 2016 Legend, finishing in the top 25 in his first Epic too. In the Mixed category, South African Amy McDougall finished second with her husband, Grant Usher, for Joberg2C Valencia, both of whom are coming this year and they were closely followed by Catherine Williamson, 2016 Leyenda Mixed Champion, who also finished on the podium with Johan Labuschagne. Unfortunately Specialized's Paolo Montoya from Costa Rica didn't finish the race, but this was due to him nobly handing his wheel to another rider with a mechanical problem towards the end of the race - a reminder of the harsh nature of competitive mountain biking and dependence on lady luck.
A special mention must go to Mike Nixon who'll ride La Leyenda 2017 in the Male 100 category with 2016 Legend, Tony Van Marken. Mike and Tony have both climbed the Seven Summits of the world and Mike is now also one of only four 'Lions,' people that have completed all fourteen Cape Epics since its inception in 2004! Congratulations Mike!
Obviously riders and fans now look to the rest of the season and La Leyenda in Colombia has certainly attracted a lot of attention . "La Leyenda looks to be so exciting," said Esther, "I've never been to Colombia so can't wait to experience the country and the mountain biking there." After racing La Leyenda last year Christoph Sauser told us, “I am really looking forward to the warm Colombian welcome at the end of the stages, as well as the amazing and varied landscapes that Colombia has, especially riding up Volcano Nevado del Ruíz again."
We're sure all the riders have been enjoying some well deserved recovery time over the past week and wish them all the best of the luck in their future events and training prior to the start of La Leyenda on 30th July in Manizales.
Photos used with the kind permission of Michal Cerveny and Team Meerendal CBC.