Fluckiger to team up with Naf for this year’s Absa Cape Epic


Lukas Flückiger (29) will team up with Ralph Näf (32) for this year’s Absa Cape Epic, which takes place from 17 to 24 March. The Swiss duo will ride as team BMC. The legendary mountain bike stage race, now in its tenth year, will take place from 17 to 24 March. It will take riders through 698 km of challenging mountain biking terrain with 15 650 m of climbing from Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville to end eight days later at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate finish in Somerset West.

This will be Flückiger’s fourth Absa Cape Epic, having finished in fourth place overall in 2010 and with 4 stage wins behind his name. It will be the first event that Lukas will not be riding with his brother Mathias. He was also the silver medalist at the 2012 World Championships, the 2010 cyclo cross (CX) champion, has two World Cup podiums behind his name and was two times bronze medalist at the Under 23 World Championships. He was the 2006 Junior World Champion as well as the 2006 Junior European Champion.

Näf, on the other hand, was the 2012 Eliminator World Champion, a silver medalist at the 2007 Cross Country World Championships, 2006 Marathon World Champion, the European Cross Country Champion twice as well as the European Marathon Champion twice. This will be his third Absa Cape Epic and he has two stage wins behind his name.

Ralph Naef makes his way through a deep river crossing during stage 3 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh to Worcester Gymnasium in Worcester, South Africa on the 30 March 2011..Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Weighing in at 69kg and 1,84m tall, Flückiger started mountain biking in 1995. He says: “I really like the spirit and the location of the race. I like South Africa and its people.” Riding with Näf for the first time, Flückiger comments that they both see the race as a great opportunity to start the season. “We see it as fun and not only as a race. Both of us have participated in the race before and know how to race over 8 days. We’re really confident that we can win one, two or three stages. However, it’s hard to say what will happen in the GC. There are many strong teams this year, but our goal is to finish in the top 3.” Adds Näf (1,75m, 68kg) “I started mountain biking in 1997. I love the race and the vibe of the Cape Epic. It’s also a good way to start the 2013 season. Lukas and I are good friends, hopefully also after the Epic, and we both have the same goals. We’ll have to see whether we’re a good combination, but we’ll have a lot of fun for sure and hopefully win a few stages and finish on the podium.”

They will do a training camp over a period of two weeks. “At the end of winter, we’ll train many hours on the basic level and will do some intensities just before the Cape Epic,” says Flückiger. “I do three days of training and one day of rest. I eat what my body needs and try to have fun in between,” adds Näf.

Flückiger’s advice to other participants is “to not go over your limit in the first 5 days and to eat and sleep well. I’m looking forward to the final stage, the good spirit and hopefully some nice weather.” He reckons his super power on a bike is “short climbs and fast starts.” His advice to young athletes is to “be focused, not lose sight of your targets and to have fun”.

Näf, on the under hand, reckons you have to believe in yourself and your partner to complete this race successfully. He is really looking forward to the race and competition between the top teams. “Above all, try to have fun on your bike, ” is his advice.

Flückiger finds the first stages the most difficult. “You’re always over motivated and go over you limit. Crossing the finish line on the final stage is the most emotional time in the 8 days. You feel so free. My best memory of the race was when Mathias and I won the final stage two years ago after a very difficult week with bad luck and illness.” His first Absa Cape Epic was the toughest. “We didn’t know we had to ride and made so many mistakes. We rode too fast in the first stages and burnt out in the last stages. Of course the best part of the experience is to cross the finish line after eight days – it’s always a great experience. The worst part is if you start not feeling well and try to recover during the week.” The one word that sums up the event for him is “unpredictable”.

For Näf, the final stage is the most difficult. “But it’s also the nicest stage. There’s no more pressure and one feels tired but happy that it’s over. My best memory was when José and I won our first stage together. We tried so hard for days before. The worst part of the race is getting up at 5am and the best part is the food you get along the way.”

In his free time, Flückiger enjoys spending time with his family and friends at home. He would like to win a medal at the World Championship in Pietermaritzburg.

Näf is most proud of his medals won in the World Championships.  He enjoys spending his free time with his family and also drinking a good cup of coffee. He would like to win some World Cups this year.

Adventure enthusiasts not participating in the Absa Cape Epic are invited to enter the Liqui Fruit Cape Times Vineyard Races, which consist of the Vineyard Ride and Vineyard Run. The races promise participants breathtaking scenery and spectacular terrain. The Vineyard Run offers a fun run (6km) and a trail run (15km) and the Vineyard Ride offers a 26km and 51km race. Interested riders can register online at www.vineyard-races.co.za.  Closing date for entries is 1 March or when entries sell out.

Visit www.cape-epic.com for more details and to see where the riders are online during the race.

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