Team Spur will be hoping their fortunes improve when the racing starts later this month, after a tough few weeks just got a bit tougher this week with the news that Ariane Lüthi has been forced into a last-minute change after her partner was forced to withdraw from the Absa Cape Epic.
Following on from Alan Hatherly’s recent crash and resultant injuries, which have forced him to withdraw from the opening leg of the UCI World Cup in the team’s backyard, Stellenbosch, Team Spur yesterday announced that multiple race winner Lüthi has been forced into urgently finding a new partner and will now be riding with Belgian XCO Champion Githa Michiels. Although Lüthi’s Cape Epic plans were dealt a blow by the sudden change in partner, the Swiss national believes Team Spur’s goal of a victory in the women’s competition at the eight-day mountain bike stage race remains intact. Lüthi, a five-time winner of the race (three times women’s category and twice in the mixed), is confident Michiels will be a formidable replacement for Christina Kollman-Forstner, who was forced to withdraw from the event. “Githa is powerful and a really hard worker and that is something that is rewarded at the Cape Epic,” said Lüthi. “I am excited about racing against a very strong field in the women’s category at the Cape Epic in 10 days’ time.
Photo: Craig Kolesky
Mountain bike stage racing is all about how you respond to adversity and challenges, and I feel we have a winning attitude.” Michiels is no stranger to top-flight racing, having represented Belgium at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and earned numerous top-15 UCI World Cup placings in her career. Michiels has had a strong start to the 2018 season, placing fifth in the four-day Cyprus Sunshine Cup stage race in late February.
Michiels, who rides for the Versluys Pro Mountain Bike Team, will be competing her first Cape Epic but she couldn’t hope for a more experienced guide in Lüthi, who will be tackling her eighth event. Team Spur’s support staff also offer plenty of experience. Team Mechanic JP Jacobs is swinging his trusty tools for the 11th time at the Epic, with the rest of the management team adding a total of 16 Epics between them. Lüthi’s previous partner Kollman-Forstner returned to her home in Austria a few weeks ago, after two weeks of unexplained illness while training in South Africa. Kollman-Forstner was diagnosed with an abscess in the root of one of her teeth and the offending tooth was removed.
Unfortunately, it was too late to recoup the form she had been building and she reluctantly withdrew from the Team Spur setup.
Taken from www.onyourbike.bike