The Topeak-Ergon team are often seen at the front of a marathon or stage race, with such successful racers like Sally Bigham and Alban Lakata.
Alban Lakata has finished 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th in his six Absa Cape Epics. In 2013 he finished, but as an Outcast after his partner Robert Mennen famously broke a collarbone after hitting a duiker (small antelope) on a descent. His 2015 partner Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic has raced once – in 2014 with Mennen – and won on debut.
Lakata’s best finish, the third place with Kevin Evans in 2010, was achieved in spite of serious mechanical issues and it is evident he has the pedigree to win the race. He is also a former Marathon World Champion.
And that is just what he intends doing in 2015: “I still want to win the Absa Cape Epic,” he said. Topeak Ergon teammate Hynek, quite obviously, is out to defend his title: “Yes, what other objective could we have? But we are aware of all the competition that is taking part this year, and there are many other issues that can cause problems during the race. Defending the title is our goal, but we will not be disappointed with a podium finish.”
Hynek identified three teams as their chief rivals for the win: Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized), Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess (Centurion Vaude) and Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls).
They will be able to bank on the calm demeanour of a defending champion, Mennen, in their support team. The German will be riding with the USA’s Jeremiah Bishop.
The Austrian is known to rivals as the Albanator, perhaps a tribute to the power he has on a bike. “We both are pretty complete marathon riders,” said Lakata. “I would say Kristian is a tiny bit stronger in the climbs and I’m just a little bit better in the flat. Nobody is perfect.”
“We both are very good climbers and Alban has a huge experience with Cape Epic and stage races in general,” added Hynek. “We get along very well too, which is also an important piece of the puzzle. So I believe that we make very good combination.” Lakata is convinced that a good team dynamic is vital to success: “It’s the most important thing in the race,” he said.
The Topeak Ergon riders have been spending several weeks staying at the luxury Arabella Hotel near Hermanus while training for the event and no doubt working on their team strategy. “At the moment we are training together in the Western Cape area,” said Lakata. “We both are in a good way and very motivated.”
“For me there are two main races of the season – the World Championship and the Cape-Epic,” said Hynek. “I think this says it all. Cape Epic is a very prestigious race, being called the Tour de France of mountain biking by many people and I agree with this statement. The organisation is the best I know of.”
And their bikes? “We are riding the Canyon Lux 29er bike,” said Lakata. “I believe it’s the fastest fully on the planet. That’s been proven by many victories, including last year’s win at the Epic.”
Hynek added: “Fully is the choice like last year. The Canyon Lux 29er with just small changes compared to last year. This is just a number one bike for the Cape Epic – smooth, reliable and light.”
You can see Robert Mennen’s team bike profiled here.