Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss, who will team up for the first time at the Cape Epic from March 15, see the eight-day stage race as a major contributor to points needed to qualify riders for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The duo, along with Cherie Redecker, aim to work hard this year to ensure South Africa receives at least two automatic slots for Tokyo. And a possible victory at the Cape Epic is part of the agenda.
If they can earn enough points to maintain a ranking of seventh or higher, two SA riders will qualify for the Olympic mountain-bike race.
“Our goal is to see both of us at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” said Lill.
“We have both worked really hard [separately] to get SA women’s XCO racing on the map at an international level. I am proud of what we have overcome to be ranked seventh in the world as a country.
“We have now joined forces to get as many points as possible in the early-season races to ensure we at least keep our seventh-place ranking.”
She added that with the Cape Epic being a UCI HC stage race it would play a huge role in this.
“Hopefully we can get a solid double-hitter of points for SA there.”
Lill and Strauss will team up as Faces CST for the gruelling Cape Epic, making them the first all-South African team with a realistic chance of victory in nearly a decade.
“Where there’s a will there’s always a way,” said Strauss.
“Riding with Candice was part of my discussion when I joined Bart Brentjens’s CST Sandd Bafang team, so now it’s just to put the picture together.
“I think it is beneficial for everyone and I’m super excited to line up with her.”
Lill added that although they had never raced together as a team, she felt they knew one another’s strengths and weaknesses on the bike more than anyone.
“We would normally use this in a race situation to try and get the upper hand on one another. But now we have the opportunity to combine our strengths and I can’t wait to leverage the power of that,” she said.
“Our first race together will be the Tankwa Trek as part of the tune-up towards the Cape Epic.”
Strauss felt this was spot-on and part of the reason she approached Lill earlier this year.
“Besides being a force to be reckoned with, I feel we will be in tune with one another from the get-go. We will be doing some rides and races together to make sure that when the Cape Epic comes along we are smooth as butter,” said Strauss.
Lill said they would love the Epic to be a success, but they did understand the unpredictable nature of racing it.
“That’s why we will shoot for the overall victory but will always make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in during the race. It would make me unbelievably proud if we did manage to pull off a win. Imagine!”