The demanding eight-day event kicks off on Sunday at the University of Cape Town and finishes 647km later at Val de Vie in the Winelands.
“Our goal will be to try and finish on the podium of the African jersey competition after the eight days of racing. Winning will be a bonus,” said Bester, who was initially going to race with Alexandre Vialle, the 2017 and 2018 Canadian national XCM champion.
Vialle unfortunately fell ill during training in his build-up to the Epic, which hindered his preparation, and the Darkhorse Wheels Pro Cycling team decided it would be in their best interest to rather do a rider swop.
This year’s Red Jersey competition will be one of the most hotly contested ever, with numerous new South African professional and semi-professional mountain bike teams being formed in the last two years.
“I’m so happy that Timo has decided to team up with me for this year’s Epic. He is a great rider and has a lot of experience, having placed 14th overall in 2015 alongside previous Epic winner Stefan Sahm.
“I think I can learn a lot from him and gain even more experience in this year’s race,” said the 28-year-old Bester.
He felt he and Cooper, also 28, were both in good form and that they could prove competitive in the African jersey category.
“I have competed in road and mountain bike races all over Africa and Europe and I must admit that the Epic is by far the most challenging of all.
“The rugged terrain, long days in the saddle and extreme heat makes it really earn its name of being the untamed,” said Bester.
He said their strategy would be to limit mechanical issues, always a possibility in such demanding terrain, and to race within their technical capabilities.
“The Epic is a really long race and one day of bad luck can mean the end of your chances.
“We will take it day by day and just try to stay optimistic throughout to make the best of bad situations.”
Regarding the queen stage on day six, Bester said they would approach it with a conservative strategy.
“We’ll aim to not go too hard in the first half of the race.
“All in all, I see myself and Timo as equals and we won’t have a designated team leader but rather we’re partners in making decisions.”