For the Kross Racing Team, the 2019 season will be unique in many respects. The team, which so far has focused on two main goals - the World Cup and the World Championships, will take part in a totally new event - The Absa Cape Epic. A merciless stage race in South Africa, with traditions dating back to the beginning of the 21st century. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has labeled it the highest possible category - SHC. Despite the fact that the debut takes place in Africa, the members of Kornel Osicki have not made their intentions to play the leading roles a secret.
Eight stages, 624 kilometers to cover and an altitude of over 16,000 meters. These are the key figures of this year's edition of the race, which has been held yearly since 2004. The race is intended to combine modern, urban Africa with its beautiful, wild, environment. The competition, which lasts over a week, allows both participants and fans to get to know the charms and beauty of the country. Stunning landscapes, however, will not divert attention from the most important aspect of the Absa Cape Epic – the competition. And this year is flourished with great names. For example, Ariane Lüthi - a five-time winner of the competition, who in 2019, is going to compete together with Maja Włoszczowska. The Absa Cape Epic is an event in which contenders start in teams of two participants. At no point during the competition may the team members separate for more than two minutes.
The Polish participant is excited about the approaching challenge. Maja Włoszczowska compares the Absa Cape Epic to one of the most prestigious races - Tour de France. ‘I think that, apart from the Olympic Games, this is the biggest challenge in my cycling career.’ Ariane Lüthi is open about the duo’s goal, ‘We want to win,’ she declares, and also emphasizes the importance of the African competition. The participation of the Polish-Swiss duo has received wide coverage within the MTB environment, and experts believe the duo’s debut in South Africa may prove successful for the Kross Racing Team.
The Kross Racing Team male duo - Sergio Mantecón and Ondřej Cink - are also gearing up for the Absa Cape Epic. The 34-year-old Spaniard is familiar with the rivalry in South Africa - he made his debut in 2011. Mantecón admits to be aware of just how challenging the eight-day race is, but thinks that he and the younger Czech are capable of achieving a lot. ‘As contestants, we are very much alike and able to do well in a competition of this kind,’ says Sergio Mantecón.
The goal is to stand atop the podium
Ondřej Cink has always dreamed of taking part in this prestigious South African race. ‘I have always wanted to do it, but there would always be obstacles in the way: at first I was too young for such a demanding competition, then for a long time I did not have a partner with whom I could take up the challenge. But finally, it all worked out,’ says the 28-year-old, who also believes that Mantecón and himself will be able to take up the onslaught by the race’s favorites. ‘Long stages in difficult conditions and high temperatures are something that we both like. We can fight for the podium and this is our ultimate goal’, Cink declares.
A little over a month before making the official debut at the Absa Cape Epic, the Kross Racing Team manager, Kornel Osicki, showed confidence that the team members are in great shape and disclosed that the plan to take part in the race was already confirmed a year ago.
‘We were supposed to participate in Absa Cape Epic in 2018, but an injury suffered by Jolanda Neff forced the team to give up the idea. It is each member’s dream to take part in the race, and all those who manage to complete it, are heroes,’ Kornel Osicki states that the Polish team’s participation in the event is quite a challenge, not only in terms of sport, but as well as logistics, and attention to specific detail, which the team has been preparing for since last year.
‘You need a lot of equipment for the race, which is not an easy task, taking into account the distance between us and South Africa. At the site, the biggest challenge for both players and the maintenance team will be very high temperatures and weather fluctuations’, says Osicki. ‘Athletes begin early in the morning when it is 10-15 degrees Celsius, but during the day the temperature rises to over 40. Another challenge is the ever-present dust which makes breathing very difficult. This is a real nightmare for the mechanics, because after each stage they need to dismantle the bicycles to the smallest pieces in order to have them thoroughly cleaned.’
This year's edition of Absa Cape Epic starts on the 17th and finishes on 24th of March. Detailed information about the member list is available on the official website: www.cape-epic.com. The complete competition schedule is available below. For stage profiles - see attachments.
Prologue: University of Cape Town – University of Cape Town (21 kilometers)
Stage I: Hermanus High School – Hermanus High School (112 kilometers)
Stage II: Hermanus High School – Oak Valley Estate (86 kilometers)
Stage III: Oak Valley Estate – Oak Valley Estate (103 kilometers)
Stage IV: Oak Valley Estate – Oak Valley Estate (43 kilometers)
Stage V: Oak Valley Estate – University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields (100 kilometers)
Stage VI: University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields – University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields (89 kilometers)
Stage VII: University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields – Val de Vie Estate (70 kilometers)
Kross Racing Team is a Polish professional cycling team, participating in global bicycle routes for over a decade. Before the launch of the 2019 season, the Maja Włoszczowska team was united with Ariane Luethi, Sergio Mantecon and, Ondrej Cink. The focus of the restructured team includes three main objectives: The World Cup, World championships, and The Cape Epic. In the long run, the team will also prepare its members to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The team is headed by Kornel Osicki.
KROSS is a leader in Poland’s bicycle market. The company was founded in 1990, and it’s range of bicycles within the “Le Grand Brand”, include, among others, urban electric bikes, recreational bicycles, and the first model city bikes from the Originals line. In terms of sports sponsorship, the company supports Kross Racing Team, Delikia Kross, MTB Team as well as athletes: Igor Tracz and Bartek Huzarski. The bicycle brands are based on original and innovative technologies, and are manufactured in Przasnysz near Warsaw. The founder and owner of the company is Zbigniew Sosnowski.