2020 Absa Cape Epic Women: Old Friends, Fresh Approach for Lüthi and Pirard
Ariane Lüthi and Alice Pirard will represent Team Andermatt Spur in the 2020 Absa Cape Epic. The former three-time UCI Women’s category winner and her Belgian teammate have been friends for years and have raced together in Europe previously.
They will make their debut as an Untamed African Mountain Bike Race partnership this year as they seek a fresh approach to the event.
“In 2017, Alice [Pirard] rode with Sabrina Enaux as a backup team under the banner of the Spur Foundation for our Team Spur” Lüthi recalled, reflecting on how she and Pirard met.
“In the same year, Alice and I rode the Swiss Epic together, where we had the most fun off the bike. We became very good friends in the process and since then we've spent time racing and training together. In 2020 I will be trying a new approach to the Absa Cape Epic and I look forward to seeing where this gets us.”
Adding her version to the story, Pirard elaborated: “Ariane [Lüthi] and I have known each other for quite a while.
We've shared good moments on the bike in the past years, for example pairing up at Swiss Epic, and we get along well. Ariane approached me at Wines2Whales with this idea and we are looking forward to racing the Absa Cape Epic together.”
Only Theresa Ralph, in the UCI Women’s field, has as many Absa Cape Epic finishes to their name as Lüthi. Both riders have completed 8 editions, though Lüthi has the disappointment of a DNF on her palmarès too.
“Time flies and this will be my tenth start at the Absa Cape Epic already,” Lüthi said, sounding a little surprised at how quickly the last decade has raced by.
“The field in the Women’s category still has the potential to grow more in numbers, but the race has become a lot more competitive in the 10 years I’ve been participating.”
“Since the Absa Cape Epic has equalled the prize money in 2014, as well increased the media coverage and started to offer a separate start for the women, it has certainly attracted more of the very best female riders in the world” Lüthi mused.
“In doing so the race helped women take part more professionally and make a living from mountain biking. At the same time, this increased the level of racing.
However, I have been in discussion with the organisation as to how we can increase the depth of the field.
I think, shortening the long stages for the women could be a good way to attract more of the top XC riders. I know, it is not easy to organise but, perhaps this could be a step towards a growing field and an even more exciting race in the future.”
That said, Lüthi still loves the ultra-endurance trial of the event. “I love the challenge that the Absa Cape Epic entails” she stated. “Especially, the team aspect of it.
Two individual athletes are put into an extraordinarily stressful situation during those 8 days.
Knowing how to bring out the best in each other, while being at the absolute limit, is what fascinates me the most.
Once I have mastered the art of remaining composed, in any given racing situation while being on the very edge, I guess it will be the time to look for a new challenge. But that is still a long way off!” she joked.
For Pirard, her motivation for taking part in the race comes from the landscape it crosses. “It is a very hard but beautiful race” the Belgian praised.
“I’m looking forward to racing this one with Ariane. We want to do well; but before even seeing the start list, it would be crazy to speak about a possible result. In 2015 I experienced that, even during the last days, things can change very quickly if one gets sick. After over thirty hours of racing, I am convinced every team will end up in the place they belong.”
Lüthi and Pirard’s 2020 Absa Cape Epic bid is supported by Andermatt, a town well-loved for its surrounding mountain biking trails in Lüthi’s home country, and Spur Steak Ranches. Lüthi is an ambassador for the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League, a schools-based mountain biking programme focused on introducing children to the sport and to provide them with a competitive outlet if they choose.
The league has 19 300 entries per year and boasts 2019 Absa African Jersey winner, Alan Hatherly, among its alumni. To follow Team Andermatt Spur’s progress in the 2020 Absa Cape Epic, which starts on Sunday 15 March, visit www.cape-epic.com.