Two Bora-Hansgrohe riders will start next week's Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race. Professional road racers Ben Zwiehoff and Lennard Kämna will trade their skinny tires for knobbies as a part of one of the world's foremost mountain bike races.
Zwiehoff has plenty of experience in the dirt as he raced on the UCI World Cup XCO circuit prior to signing with the Bora-Hansgrohe professional road cycling team for 2021. In 2019, his best result was a 23rd-place at a World Cup, no easy feat.
Kämna on the other hand has limited mountain biking experience, only riding a knobby-tired bike for the first time this year.
“As I am from the north of Germany, I rode a mountain bike for the first time this year,” Kämna said ahead of the race. “I’ve been doing a few MTB rides lately and have really been enjoying them a lot. Still, technically, I am far from good! It has been very cool to have Ben next to me, helping with advice and bike set-up.”
Zwiehoff has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years. In 2020, he was competing in the Swiss Epic mountain bike stage race when he injured his knee while sitting in second place overall. This year, he broke his collarbone in a crash but recovered and completed the Vuelta a España, the German's first career grand tour performance.
Racing more than 600km over eight days, the Cape Epic route also features extremely technically challenging terrain. Zwiehoff says that it may be one of the most challenging mountain bike races that he's ever done.
“In recent years the Absa Cape Epic course has become increasingly demanding, especially the technical aspects” Zwiehoff said. “You really have to be a good bike handler to perform well in this race. I think it is not comparable to any other MTB race I did.”
The German duo says they will not target results, rather racing for the sense of adventure and to have fun.
“We want to have fun and enjoy the ride,” Kämna said. “It’s not so much about results; it’s more about having an adventure. And of course, we also want to present the team, Bora-Hansgrohe, from a new side.”
If Zwiehoff finishes the race, he will become the first rider to complete both a road grand tour and the Cape Epic in the same season, a rather obscure but impressive statistic.
The Cape Epic starts Oct. 17 with a 20km prologue at the University of Cape Town before heading to Ceres the next day for a 98km stage with 1,800 meters of climbing.
The reigning champions from 2019 are Nino Schurter and Lars Forster of the Scott-SRAM race team.