Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne win Asba Cape Epic, debutants GHOST Factory Racing win Aramex Women’s Category

The overall Ladies and Mens winners during Stage 7 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Stellenbosch to Stellenbosch, South Africa on 24 March 2024. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Simon Schneller and Urs Huber (BULLS Mavericks) won Stage 7 – the Grand Finale – of the Absa Cape Epic men’s race, but it was Matt Beers and Howard Grotts of Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne who claimed the overall title at the 2024 event. 

In the Aramex Women’s Category, Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) won an eighth stage in a row on their way to the 2024 Absa Cape Epic title. By winning every stage of the 2024 race (the Prologue and seven stages), the Dutch-Swiss combo matched the performance of Laura Stigger and Sina Frei, who also won eight stages on their way to the 2021 title. 

With some tired bodies and minds amongst the elite riders – leader Matt Beers admitting to lack of sleep and stomach issues on the finish line – the early pace on the 67km, Stellenbosch Stage 7 loop was sedate by the past week’s standards.

As riders approached the famous Jonkershoek trails of Stellenbosch, a familiar pattern soon emerged, though – Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne in front, with BUFF – MEGAMO (Hans Becking and Wout Alleman) and Canyon SIDI (Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann) for company. BULLS Mavericks, who have been ‘taking it easy this week’ by their own admission, were also in the front bunch and quickly moved into pole position as the stage leaders. 

As Schneller and Huber (the 2016 Cape Epic champion) cracked on the pace, the lead pack split further, with only Beers and Grotts keeping pace with the leaders. With a healthy gap of more than nine minutes over second place World Bicycle Relief (Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini) at the start of the Grand Finale, overall leaders Beers and Grotts simply had to get to the finish in one piece. And so they did. 

On the second half of the stage, BULLS Mavericks moved further into the lead, with Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro (Wilier Vittoria Factory) eventually overtaking Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne to move into second on the day.

The Grand Finale men’s race remained that way, as 38-year-old Huber rolled back the years to match Schneller’s pace and romp home for a stage win on the last day of the Absa Cape Epic. Wilier Vittoria Factory soon followed the winners across the line before the Yellow Jerseys of Beers and Grotts appeared on the grass of the Coetzenburg Sports Stadium to raucous cheers. 

“It’s all pretty crazy,” said an obviously drained Beers. “To win three Absa Cape Epics. I am not really sure what to say. It feels like yesterday I won my first Epic. It’s a total whirlwind. I have been lucky with good partners and really good people. All my partners have been amazing. I am very lucky to have these awesome people in my life.”

Grotts, a 2018 Absa Cape Epic winner alongside Jaroslav Kulhavy, was elated to take home another title. “Today was awesome, just really fun. We played it safe all the way; that was the strategy. Matt is a great partner and we work so well together. We don’t push each other beyond what is reasonable. I think we have the same approach to life and that’s what has made this week a tough but fun experience.”

Debut delight for GHOST Factory Racing

In the Aramex Women’s Category, the Grand Finale was animated by an early attack from 2023 champion Vera Looser and her partner Alexis Skarda (Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM). GHOST Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller couldn’t be spooked, though, and they calmly made their way back to the front of the women’s race.  As has been the case all week, Terpstra and Koller were joined at the front by Candice Lill and marathon world champion Mona Mitterwallner (Ca

Cannondale Factory Racing).

Lill, in fine form throughout the week, pushed the pace to apply some pressure on the GHOST riders, but true to form, Terpstra and Koller were able to respond and ultimately ride away from Cannondale Factory Racing on the second half of the stage.

Mitterwallner admitted at the end of the race that she had been battling illness all week. For Terpstra and Koller, though, the week couldn’t have gone any better. 

“This is incredible,” said a delighted Terpstra. “I don’t know what to say! The Cannondale and Specialized teams put up such a hard fight this week. It was really exhausting, so it is amazing to be standing here as an Absa Cape Epic winner.” 

Koller was just as thrilled with the victory. “It’s a dream come true – completely unbelievable. We honestly didn’t expect this when we planned to race the Absa Cape Epic. We didn’t think we would be finishing our first-ever Epic like this. It was a tough week, a great race. We worked hard but we had fun as well. What a week.” An emotional Lill – smiling since day one – said she and Mitterwallner ‘went through a lot this week’. “We made the best of every situation and fought hard. I think we formed a great partnership and friendship

.”

Mitterwallner was equally complimentary of her Absa Cape Epic partner and vowed to return for another crack at the Untamed African MTB Race. “Candice is the best athlete I have met; I really love her and I hope we can try again in the future.”

Results

Men’s Category, Stage 7

1 Simon Schneller & Urs Huber (BULLS Mavericks) 2:52:08  

2 Fabian Rabensteiner & Samuele Porro (Willier Vittoria Factory) 2:54:24 +2:16  

3 Matt Beers & Howard Grotts (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) 2:55:16 +3:08

Men’s CaGC after Stage 7

1 Matt Beers & Howard Grotts (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne)

2 Nino Schurter & Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief) 

3 Hans Becking & Wout Alleman (BUFF – MEGAMO) 

Aramex Women’s Category, Stage 7

1 Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) 3:32:07

2 Candice Lill & Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing) 3:36:52  +4:45

3 Vera Looser & Alexis Skarda (Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM) 3:40:09  +8:02

Aramex Women’s Category GC after Stage 7

1 Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing)

2 Candice Lill & Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing)  3 Sofia Gomez Villafane & Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne)