Team Topeak-Ergon departed headquarters in Koblenz, Germany; headed straight to Kapstad for one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world.
Awaiting them is a 739km distance of tough trails and 16,000m of altitude change over the course of 8 days.
Race Ready for 2015
Topeak-Ergon Team has
had a run of bad luck in previous years at the Absa Cape Epic, but that all
changed in 2014 when Robert Mennen and Kristian Hynek took the overall win, battling
until the very end at the world’s toughest mountain bike stage race.
The team is ready for the tough challenge that lies ahead.
The Team Lineup
2015 Absa Cape Epic - Team Lineup
Team 1: Alban Lakata & Kristian Hynek
Team 2: Robert Mennen & Jeremiah Bishop
(Jeremiah Bishop USA Team New addition 2015)
Women's Team : Sally Bigham & Christina Kollmann
(Kollman joins Bigham Replacing injured rider Blaza Klemencic last minute)
Let the Adventure Begin!
The Absa Cape Epic is known
as the toughest mountain bike race in the world. Two-person teams endure sweltering
heat, difficult terrain, and stages covering over 739km of untamed South
African wilderness, 15,000m of accumulated climbing; challenge riders over the
8-day stage race.
“No race compares to the Epic” - Alban Lakata
For More Information Visit the Official Race Website
Absa Cape Epic
Practice Makes Perfect
Flat tires at the Cape Epic are daily business. Sally and Christina practice fast tire changes, to maximize every second during their race.
The right catering plays a crucial role in an 8-day stage race. The team chef Maureen double checks to make sure nothing is missing. On a 100km stage race an athlete consumes around 3,000cal.
In South Africa many dangers are lurking amongst the participants, Robert Mennen learned this back in 2013 when he was attacked by an antelope while riding. Teammate Jeremiah Bishop explains what to do during an emergency.
Calm Before The Storm
A lot of pressure is on the riders, especially on the defending champion Kristian Hynek. Before the hectic camp life begins, Robert Mennen relaxes with a hot cup of coffee.
There is tension in the air, Sally and Christina ride together for the first time and do not know what to expect. Before the prologue, a tense silence, riders are listening to their personal music, talking only if necessary.
Ready to Race
Single Start - Christina and
are ready for the fight against the clock.
One for All, All for One: While Robert Mennen is struggling with a slight eye infection Jeremiah Bishop plays the workhorse on the mountain and pushes the team up to 9th in the rankings.
Are You Crazy?
An irritated Sally Bigham, who was satisfied with her performance in the prologue, explains her frustrations and concerns on the TV helicopters during the race.
No time for catching some fresh air, after 20km of full throttle riding, the riders are immediately bombarded with television cameras and reporters. After a solid ride the team ends up in 7th place with 50 seconds back.
The first rays of sunshine in the paddock create a surreal ambience. In the background there are already wild activities taking place - every rider following his own ritual, while the bikes await today’s stage.
Krisitan Hynek is under constant surveillance because of his last years win. There is no time for sightseeing - top riders like Kristian are known for their focused riding styles and they have no time to enjoy the scenery.
Technical problems are always expected. In the Tech Zone each move must be perfect. Every second counts.
With a total of 4 flat tires, the team is taking a beating. But innovation is a necessity: Sausage is similar to plastic patches and can seal tubeless tires enabling a rapid fix, when every second counts.
15,000 Rand Purse for the win of the mountains classification. The motivation remains strong.
Great Service: Immediately after the race the bikes receive high-pressure cleanings.
While the physiotherapist is massaging Jeremiah's legs, he has already internalized the profile of the upcoming stage.
When the going gets tough, everyone has to work: Part of the team ensures that the tents do not fly away, and the other guys take care of the valuable bikes.
When The Body Rebels
The extreme conditions yesterday caused massive problems with rider Christina Kollmann’s back. Sally suggests what to do in case of an emergency to Team Manager Dirk: Call the pick-up crew!
Rough Days, Short Nights
The night was very uncomfortable - but also the day doesn’t look promising either. Just the right conditions make for an interesting and exciting race.
Quite Bitter - bad luck and even punished for it. Due to technical problems with team rider Jeremiah Bishop, the teams separate. As the distance increases almost 4 minutes, the team collects a one-hour penalty. You can read their faces to know what they are think about this...
Hard Fight Against The Wind
Alban Lakata fights against the tough weather and takes the lead on the uphill.
Sauvignon and Pinotage?
South Africa is known for its wine. Quite often, the course crosses private grape vineyards. The riders must earn their wine tasting first...
To the Limit
Freezing at 25 °C - Alban has used so much power during the stage that his body goes into emergency mode.
Despite her serious back problems Christina Kollmann gave everything she had. At the end of the stage, Bigham & Kollmann look forward to taking 2nd place.
The leading women's team has unintentionally taken shortcuts. Team Manager Dirk is preparing regulations on the basis of an official protest. Anika Long Ward and Ariane Kleinhans receive a time penalty. Thus, Sally and Christina were moved from 3rd to 2nd place.
92km pushed Alban Lakata & Kristian Hynek to the limit - The two ended up with 2nd place at the end of the day.
Peter the team mechanic has a hawks eye, he checking the tires after the race for damage. Nothing can be left to chance.
Logistical Masterpiece: Stage 3 is a transition stage, everything must be packed, shipped and assembled again at the new location.
The Tactic Works: Jeremiah Bishop makes the pace and the rest of the team stays in his slipstream.
Drinking wine is out of the question here, but the riders can enjoy some pleasant shade while riding through the South African winery.
Christina Kollmann collapses from extreme exertion and falls victim to heat stroke. Team partner Sally Bigham provides first aid and shade with her jersey.
After what feels like an eternity in the sweltering heat Christina finally gets help and is taken to the Medical Center. The race is over for the pair, but health comes first.
When the Engine burns, only cold water can help. Alban enjoys a cold shower at the finish and is happy with second place.
Meter by meter, the rigors of today's stage can be seen in Robert Mennen's face.
After 128 kilometers Kristian Hynek keeps loose on the rollers. Still 4 days left – he cannot have heavy legs.
Alban Lakata sets the pace while the competitors eat dust!
Fluid loss is tremendous at 30° C at peak physical performance, the riders must grab their own bottles at specified points on the course only.
Fight for it but not to the point of complete exhaustion - that was the motto on the 111 kilometers of Stage Four. This is not an easy task for 2,000 meters of altitude changes.
Technical difficulties during the race are immediately discussed and resolved with the team mechanic.
For each bike the two team mechanics need at least 1.5 hours to dismantle everything, performance maintenance repairs - leaving nothing to chance.
The Battery is Empty
4.5 hours in the saddle takes its toll on the body - Kristian is on empty!
Cold showers under a garden hose - there is no better feeling after such a tough stage.
The mechanics are also cyclists and know exactly which parts of the bike are particularly vulnerable. There are no compromises - what no longer works is changed.
Caring fore the Caregiver
The Epic is tough enough not only for the riders, but the crew is at the limit also, Physiotherapist Torsten has problems with the dust.
Hard riding requires healthy food. Team cook Maureen conjures up a classic menu every day on the team table. This is not just about fill the fuel tank - the nutrition is a very important ritual in such long and difficult stage races like the Cape Epic.
Another transition stage where perfect teamwork is required. The riders warm up and the Crew are packing in the background.
Sally must start as an outcast, she will continue on without her teammate Christina, but will not have a result. So far, seven pros are out of the race. The same situation happened to Alban Lakata 2 years ago at the Cape Epic.
Catching Back Up
After two mechanicals Kristian Hynek and Alban Lakata have fallen behind the leaders.
Team Manager Dirk is under stress, the strategy doesn't work due to mechanicals.
Kristian Hynek and Alban Lakata push to find their way back to the leaders. The leading group used this situation to push on.
Team 2 riders Robert Mennen
and Jeremiah Bishop help out Team 1 Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek with a flat
and then had to repair it themselves. They are forced to put their
personal interests aside for the benefit of the team.
The disappointment over the lost minutes is written all over Kristian Hynek’s face, physiotherapist Torsten consoles him as best as he can.
Too Fast For You...
Sally continues to push hard each day, riding as an Outcast. She is using the stages as training workouts for upcoming season races.
Early Morning Showers
Early morning rain at the start leaves no dust on the trails.
Kristian and Alban use the slipstream of their competitors in order to conserve energy for the final sprint.
A small tactical mistake by Kristian Hynek happened near the end of the stage costing the team a chance at the stage win.
Jeremiah BIshop and Robert Mennen had no impact on the outcome of stage 6, but they enjoyed the singletrack-heavy stage.
A Gentleman's Agreement
Cycling is characterized by unwritten laws. If you are in the leaders jersey, you don't sprint for the stage win. Asking Alban Lakata if he wants the stage win as a gift, makes him so upset that he sprinted to the end.
Heart Stopping Finish
After 71km and 2,000 meters of climbing it was only a few inches between victory and defeat.
Lungs Full of Dust
Extreme conditions and dust settles into the lungs of the racers. Saline inhalation provides daily remedy.
Look Straight Ahead
In race mode, unfortunately there is no time to observe for the beauty of the African plains.
Two competitor teams ride ahead, collectively the Topeak Ergon Team is on the hunt to catch them.
What is going on in Kristian’s mind? Eight days of the Cape Epic not only pushes the body to the extreme, it also brings the riders to their mental limits.
Alban and Kristian have really given everything. They are not satisfied with second place overall, so they will try for the again next year ...
After 8 days of pushing to the limit with a total of 748 kilometers distance and 16,000 meters of altitude climbing, the suffering finally came to an end. The 2nd place overall brings smiles to the faces of the team.