Grand Masters Attracts the Greats
The Absa Cape Epic’s 10th birthday preparations are already underway, and while there’s plenty of speculation on where the route will take the 1200 riders, the introduction of a new age category has piqued the interest of some previous winners of the race, and of the grandfather of mountain biking itself, Tom Ritchey.
Tom Ritchey, the "Grand Daddy of Mountian biking" and Thomas Frischnecht, rode together in the 2008 Absa Cape Epic
Ritchey has recently been in contact with race founder Kevin Vermaak, saying, “I would love to see this kind of a race come about. I would definitely do the Epic in 2013, if they added the clause, ‘Grandmaster must be over 50 years old, with at least one grandbaby!’” As a former national level road racer, it’s still clear he has racing ingrained in his DNA.
Having ridden the Absa Cape Epic partnered with one of the most decorated mountain bikers of all time, Olympic silver medallist and former world champion, Thomas Frischnecht.
Line honours weren’t on his agenda that year, as they were riding to promote Project Rwanda, but Ritchey is still keen to stand on the podium. “Really, I sent an email to Frischi this morning, to see if he was up to doing it with me… I think if you took our combined age of over 100 years old, we would dust them!” Unfortunately though, Frischnecht is still only 42 years old, and the rules state that both riders have to be older than 50.
Most of the so-called inventors of mountain biking, and guys prevalent in the early days, are in their 50s right now, so it’s only appropriate that the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world create a category for them to compete in.
Ritchey and Frischnecht riding in the 2008 Absa Cape Epic
Ritchey sizes up some possible partners, and rivals. “I'm 55. Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher are a few years older. We all started very close to the same years, 70, 71, 72 and started road racing in Northern California. I did a grand tour of the SwissAlps with Joe about 10 years ago. So I think pairing up with him would be great fun. I haven't really found myself in a race with Gary since Lago Di Garda, about 10 years ago…”
Winners of the masters category in the early years of the race will be eligible for grandmaster status in 2013. Frank Soll won the masters category at the inaugural event and has since relocated to Australia. But the distance from his former hunting ground won't discourage him from returning to defend his honour. “Gee that would be fun, to race with the guys again! What a great thing, I’d definitely consider coming back for that. I’d have to look around to see who I would ride with, that’s the critical question. Maybe MC Franken or Brian Strauss, one of those guys.”
2005 winner Fred Coleski is also keen to try out his racing legs. “I’ll only be a grandmaster in 2014 but I can tell you I am very keen to come back to race again. In recent years the Masters has been so competitive and guys in who’re 48 or 49 just don’t have a chance.” When pushed to choose a partner Coleski smiled saying, “I’ve always been clever in that I have always picked a partner who’s much stronger! I’d look at who is fit around that time. A man like MC Franken is always there so he’d be great.”