Bestmed Tour of Good Hope champion Ariane Luthi and Belgian superstar Githa Michiels will tackle this afternoon’s Champions Race together, as a starter to the Cape Epic feast that gets under way on Sunday.
“I feel really great after the Tour of Good Hope. Winning a few stages as well as the overall title gave me a lot of confidence,” said Luthi, who is a five-time Cape Epic winner.
“It’s amazing what a road stage race does to my legs. That’s why I keep going back there, because I always feel in amazing shape afterwards.”
The surprise pairing, who teamed up after Luthi’s original teammate Christina Kollman fell ill last week, will join various top mountain bikers as they race through the streets of Kayamandi in Stellenbosch.
“I’m looking forward to taking my new Epic partner with me to Kayamandi. Githa, who is the Belgian cross-country champion, just arrived yesterday and we did our first ride together.
“She’s a very tough girl, hard-working and certainly capable of riding eight days in a row on this tough terrain. It will be her first Epic, but I think once we’ve started and settled the nerves, all will fall into place.”
The Champions Race, which is hosted by the charity songo.info, is the traditional final race before the Epic and follows a cross-country format, and Switzerland’s Luthi said it was a very special race that she always looked forward to.
“It’s one of the highlights of the year in terms of atmosphere and location. I’m very good friends with some of the kids from the charity, especially Sipho [Madolo] alongside whom I’ve spent many hours in a saddle.”
“The race is a nice, hard effort before the Epic. Obviously I would like to win it, but there are top cross-country racers taking part and I won’t feel bad if I don’t end on the top,” said Luthi.
“I will give my best, but it’s a short course and I don’t think it’s a measure of how one will do in the Epic. It will be interesting to see how the others’ legs are faring.”
The impressive men’s field includes Julien Absalon, Jaroslav Kulhavý, Sam Gaze, Simon Andreassen, Howard Grotts, Victor Koretzky, Matthias Stirnemann, Maxime Marotte, Nicola Rohrbach and the charity’s co-founder Christoph Sauser.
The races kick off at 5.30pm and 6pm respectively.