The area around Stellenbosch and Capetown is mostly known for Cape Epic, but hosted its first XCO World Cup this past weekend and was able to come up with a convincing premiere of an event that attracted thousands of spectators. The long dry period complemented the spectacular backdrop even more, causing lots of dust on the both technically and physically challenging course.
Anne Terpstra started training on the road again after recovering from her ankle fracture and witnessed her teammates’ impressive performance while supporting them from the sidelines. Barbara Benko, in her first World Cup race for our team, was on track for the TOP10 for quite a long while, before crashing with a competitor during the second to last lap. Due to the crash and the subsequent damage to her bike, she needed to stop in the tech zone: “I knew that I was in good shape and would have been able to take home a TOP10 placement here. I was on track to do just that, but unfortunately, the crash damaged my seat post and it needed to be replaced. Our mechanic did a grandiose job and I am sure he set a new World Record”, said the Hungarian Champion with a smile after the race. She was part of the lead group at first, secure in the TOP10 and her goal was well within reach that day: “In the end, the first four laps went really well, too bad I couldn’t hold it until the finish line, but the race confirmed that I am in great shape!”
Lisa Pasteiner was visibly nervous before her first U23 World Cup race, but maybe this contributed to her very strong race performance: “To finish in the TOP10 in my very first World Cup is naturally a dream come true, I am very happy with my race,” The former Junior World Champion runner-up already gave an impressive performance on Cyprus, and was able to give a repeat in South Africa: “I was a little surprised to be honest, that I had no trouble keeping the pace with the competition. The race here was just really fun. Towards the end, it got really tough again because a group of 5 riders was closing up to me, but I was able to keep them behind me after all. Every lap, I could see that Malene was on the very top on the score board and that gave me an extra push over the course for the entire race. Finding out that Sina came in second place after I finished was just unreal, just awesome!”
Her two U23 teammates were ecstatic, hugging each other after they crossed the finish line. Malene Degn, in particular, was absolutely overcome given her first World Cup victory feat since 2014. The girl from Denmark won on basically every level during her time as a Junior, and now celebrated her very first U23 victory of her career. “I did know that I was in great shape, but that it was good enough to take the win in my very first race, I never would have dared to dream. Naturally, I did have that hope somewhere in the very back of my mind that this would be the very best possible goal for this season. I guess I need to rethink that again.” After a turbulent start, Sina Frei, Malene Degn and Evie Richards were able to go out ahead of the field, but the eventual winner started to notice more and more minor mistakes made by Richards from England: “At the beginning, I saw that Sina was still in our group. No doubt that this was a big mental advantage for both of us and we were able to work together. Then I noticed that Evie slowly started making more and more mistakes and eventually, I passed her, built a lead that I was able to extend until the finish line – it was just an absolutely amazing feeling. I would like to say Thank you very much to everybody! We have been working on the bike on Cyprus and again here in South Africa as well and accomplished even more technical fine-tuning. That, a good winter and the perfect support made today possible! What a crazy race, I still kind of can’t believe what happened here today.”
It was an equally successful day for the U23 World Champion Sina Frei. “I am not 100% happy with my own race, I made a few mistakes and wasn’t fully focused. But the result is ok and the fact that Malene took the win makes me really happy for her. We shared a room the whole week and got to know each other much better and appreciate each other even more. To stand next to each other on the podium was a dream ending to a perfect week.” At the start, the Swiss rider was not part of the lead group yet, made a couple of mistakes here and there and fell behind: “But then, over the course of the race, I turned things around and when I was able to pass Evie and Malene was already long gone, I knew it was all about bringing home this second place. I think we had about the perfect opener to the season and everyone in the team is super happy. It makes me happy to be able to give back because the team gave me such a nice welcome and took me in with open arms. I am super proud to belong to this great group! Hoping to keep going just like that!”
This was the very first XCO World Cup victory ever for the team. After World Champion titles, XCE World Cup and Overall World Cup victories, numerous podium finishes in the XCO World Cup, the team achieved a historic milestone in its team history last weekend. Many Thanks to all friends, partners and sponsors in the background – we have big plans for the future!