MTB

Italian Ferraro drops into support team after struggle with injury

By Absa Cape Epic

Top Absa Cape Epic team Trek Selle San Marco has had to make a last-minute change after Italian Damiano Ferraro was injured in a crash.

Russian marathon champion Alexey Medvedev – who was scheduled to ride in the Trek Selle San Marco back up team – will replace Ferraro and ride with Samuele Porro, who is also Italian.

Ferraro and Porro won a stage and finished third overall last year and had been tipped as dark horses for an overall victory this year.

Ferraro damaged his neck in a crash last month and apparently feels it has not recovered adequately for him to ride at the sort of intensity required at the front end of the Absa Cape Epic field.

The change should not weaken the team significantly: besides being the Russian champion, Medvedev has been in excellent form recently and had a strong 2016 season.

Ferraro will now ride the race with Italian Fabian Rabensteiner as a back up team for Porro and Medvedev.

The Trek Selle San Marco team are among at least eight teams that have set their sights on the top step of the podium when the race finishes at Val de Vie Estate in Paarl on March 26.

The men’s field is regarded as the strongest yet to take on the event.

Three teams are slight favourites but several others may surprise them.
 
Credit: Absa Cape Epic

Defending champions Karl Platt of Germany and Swiss Urs Huber (Bulls), five-time winner Christoph Sauser of Switzerland and Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec Songo Specialized) and Austrian Alban Lakata and Czech teammate Kristian Hynek (Topeak Ergon) have Absa Cape Epic pedigree that makes them the favourites.

But the pro riders are also pointing to Centurion Vaude’s German pairing of Jochen Kaess and Markus Kaufmann as serious contenders.

Also in the mix could be Olympic gold medallist Nino Schurter of Switzerland and his countryman Matthias Stirnemann (Scott-SRAM), German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale) and South African Max Knox, who will be riding with Colombian Hector Páez (Kansai Plascon).

As Platt said at a press conference this week: “The racing’s going to be hectic.”

In the women’s event three teams stand out. Defending champion Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland will be back with a new partner Adelheid Morath of Germany (Spur) and have set their sights firmly on a win.
They will have to see off a mighty challenge from Ascendis Health’s combination of multiple South African champion Robyn de Groot and former Olympic gold medallist Sabine Spitz of Germany.

Also in the mix should be the Swiss/Swedish combination of Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC).

The Absa Cape Epic kicks off with a prologue at Meerendal Wine Esate, Durbanville, on Sunday and then seven stages that take riders to Hermanus, Greyton, Elgin and then on to Val de Vie.


* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from 19 to 26 March and the much anticipated route can be viewed here.
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