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Lüthi on life without Langvad

2017-02-07

Ariane Lüthi says that replacing Annika Langvad as an Absa Cape Epic partner was an “almost impossible” challenge.

The Lüthi/Langvad combination swept aside all Hansgrohe Women’s category challengers for the past three years, but the Danish superstar has decided to return to her studies and will not be able to make the 2017 Cape Epic.

But now Lüthi believes that she has come up with the perfect answer:  Germany’s Adelheid Morath.

The Stellenbosch-based Swiss rider explained this week how the Team Spur partnership came about: “To cut a long story short, Adelheid sent me a message saying she would be available,” Lüthi explains. “It has turned out to be even better than I first thought: Adelheid is a world-class rider and has a very professional approach … I am really excited to be racing with her.”

Lüthi raced against Morath in the Swiss Epic in 2015, where she and Langvad finished second to the German and Briton Sally Bigham.

“She is a very good climber – I saw that on the Swiss Epic – and a really good technical rider,” says Lüthi.

The German has UCI World Cup cross country series top 10 finishes to her name and a compelling argument for teaming up with her is that she has already knows the Cape Epic. In 2016 Morath raced the Untamed African mountain bike stage race for the first time and finished third overall with Bigham.

Morath says of that experience: “I was happy about it, but it also made me hungry for more. Directly after the Cape Epic (I decided I wanted) to come back and finish even better. I got a very good chance to team up together with Ariane. It’s the hardest race I ever did – anything can happen at any time.”

She is unequivocal about their ambitions: “Every stage will be a new challenge and we have to give our best every day. Our goal is the overall win and also stage wins.”

Lüthi points out that there are several teams that will be fighting for the podium, but welcomes this: “I want to win this race against the strongest possible competition … it is better to win the with a one minute gap than one hour.”

She has thrown herself into her preparation with extra vigour this year and is working with a new coach, Denmark’s Thomas Bonne, who also coaches Langvad. Lüthi said she had “a few hiccups” with her preparation but now “I’m back on track and things are going really well”.

One major change this year – and yet another indication of the evolution of the Women’s category – is that Lüthi and Morath will have a support team in Frenchwoman Sabrina Enaux and Belgian Alice Pirard. The latter finished the Cape Epic in 2015 in fifth place, but Enaux will be taking part for the first time. Last year Enaux finished third on the Marathon World Championship and Pirard won Australia’s Crocodile Trophy and her national marathon championship.

Back up or support teams have become routine in the men’s event and are seen as being key to success: their role is to be on hand to help with mechanical or other issues as the race unfolds. This is the first time a team has been directly recruited to play the role for a women’s team and they might prove to be the difference over eight tough days.

Morath will be coming to South Africa to ride and train with Lüthi next week and will stay on until after the Cape Epic.

“My first race will be the Tankwa Trek,” says Morath. “It’s a good test for Ariane and me on how we work together as a team. And afterwards we can work on things that can be better. I also will have the time to shred some trails and adapt to the hot temperatures compared to the cold at home in Germany.”

She is clearly a fan of the Cape Epic: “It’s such a huge event which is just perfectly organised. The people there just give you the feeling they love this sport! I also like the stage routes. For me South Africa is perfect place for real mountain biking on nice and challenging trails. I also like the special atmosphere in the Cape Epic race villages.”

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