Cape Town - Winning the 2016 Absa Cape Epic was the “biggest feeling” ever on mountain bike for Urs Huber, and now he and Team Bulls partner Karl Platt are determined to defend their title.
But if the pressure of going for a historic sixth Absa Cape Epic win is getting to Platt he is doing an excellent job of disguising it.
As always, the German is full of laughs and says that “winning is always nice and that’s why we race ... but I’m not putting myself under pressure because its number six”.
Instead he and Swiss team-mate Huber are getting on with the sort of training that swept them to victory in 2016: “We are 100% on course and highly motivated to defend our title,” Platt says.
“We’ve had no issues so far and looking forward to the last important prep during January and February.”
“Preparation is going well up to now and I'm doing it like last year,” added Huber.
And what do they think of the amazingly strong field that will be racing this year?
“Which rivals? Are there any?” laughs the Swiss strongman.
“No I'm joking: for sure it's an incredibly strong field but I am training hard and will do my preparation as well as I can. As a bonus, last year’s race will give us big confidence.”
“There are many new pairings and it is going to be very exciting,” says Platt.
Platt and Huber make for a very effective partnership. The former has years of experience and has won the race five times, while the latter is exceptionally strong over marathon distances. They will also have the benefit of an excellent support team in Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Böhme, who have played this role for the past three years.
Besides that experience, Stiebjahn and Böhme have the ability to stay with the front runners: in 2014 they finished third overall after Platt pulled out with a knee injury.
This will be the fifth time Platt and Huber take on the Cape Epic and they are looking forward to riding in some different areas this year.
“It's interesting having some changes to the route for this year and by the time the race starts we will have been doing a lot of training in the region of Hermanus,” Huber says.
The race goes to Hermanus, Greyton and Elgin this year and Platt adds: “I know Elgin very well ... the other two places I will discover soon”.
They will both be on new Bulls dual-suspension bikes this year and are clearly relishing the prospect of a getting back on the start line.
‘This race is a must on the list of every pro,” Huber says.
“Last year’s win was the biggest feeling I ever had in mountain biking and I'm still thinking about it every day,” Huber says.
“I like being in South Africa, doing all my preparation and the build up ... enjoying the weather, the people, the trails, the food, the wine,” Platt says.
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from March 19-26 and the much anticipated route can be viewed HERE