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Reigning World Champion Gunning for the Win

2018-02-21

Choosing the Absa Cape Epic as your first-ever stage race and partnering with a modern legend is not a decision most would take. But American XCO-specialist Kate Courtney is not someone who is afraid of making big choices.

Courtney, the young American regarded as the next big thing in mountain biking, will race the 15th Absa Cape Epic with three-time Women’s category winner Annika Langvad for Investec-Songo-Specialized 2. The Dane, who missed the 2017 edition after she opted to concentrate on finishing her dental degree, will return to an event she has won every time she has raced it.

“This will be my first time racing a team stage race and I am really looking forward to sharing the experience of the race with Annika,” said Courtney. “While we have never raced as a team, we have been teammates on Specialized for a few years and have spent time training and racing around the world together.

“I think both Annika and I are very serious racers but also love what we do. I think our team will be serious and professional, but also very supportive, positive and fun going by the way we have interacted together in the past. I think this attitude will serve us very well in such a challenging event in which preparation, positivity and level headedness are crucial.”

Courtney won four of the six legs of the 2018 UCI U23 XCO World Cup series and thus sealed the overall title. She took silver in the U23 World Championships. A strong climber and good technical descender, she believes her willingness to learn and fresh eyes will benefit the team.

“I am very excited to race with Kate and, for the first time ever, race with a new race partner,” said Langvad. “Kate is super strong and motivated and I have no doubts she’ll be doing well and adapt quickly to this kind of racing. The idea of a women’s factory team at the Absa Cape Epic has been in the pipeline for a while and Kate was up for it.”

Both Courtney and Langvad will take part in the opening leg of the UCI World Cup in Stellenbosch the week before the Absa Cape Epic, which, Langvad believes has played a part in the strength of the women’s field.

“It’s good to see that having the Epic World Cup before the Absa Cape Epic brings more riders to the race. I think MTB, as a whole, needs a larger mix of races. XCO racing gives a lot of exposure to only a very few riders. In order to make it worthwhile for sponsors I hope the dedicated XCO riders start to think about other types of racing. The more the merrier.”

“I am truly super excited to be back. Missing out on the Absa Cape Epic has brought me a fresh hunger to come back to the race. Last year I was fully occupied during winter finishing my last year of dentistry school.

“I have always been drawn to the race due to its tough and adventurous nature. You go through such a wide range of emotions and everything feels extra intense. Actually, sometimes the hardest part comes after the race where you have to find yourself again and reset to the normal world. Contrary to XCO racing you have to work as a team in the race. Honestly, that is the feature about the race that attracts me the most. For 357 days of the year I’m on my own. For these eight days I have to focus on something bigger than me. It’s a welcome change!”

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