Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is, arguably, the world’s greatest cyclist. She has won Road, CX, XCO and XCM World Titles. Now she has set her sights on the Absa Cape Epic and will be taking on the race with the multiple South African Marathon Champion, Robyn de Groot.
Cycling’s multidisciplinary men – Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock – battle across three fronts, chasing Road, Cyclocross and Mountain Biking World Titles. The marker they chase was set by the rider who could, arguably, claim to be the world’s greatest cyclist. In 2015 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot held the rainbow jerseys in Road, CX and XCO. Subsequently the French star has gone on to add the 2019 and 2020 XCO World Championship titles and the 2019 World Marathon title to her impressive palmarès.
In 2022 she will be making her first steps towards adding the World’s Premier Mountain Bike Stage Race to her list of victories. While this year’s edition of the Absa Cape Epic may come too soon in her stage racing journey, Ferrand-Prévot has, in Robyn de Groot, the perfect partner from whom to glean Absa Cape Epic experience. The multiple South African XCM Champion and four-time Absa Cape Epic podium finisher possesses a wealth of knowledge.
The pair’s partnership came about due to their coach, Barry Austin. “My coach, Barry, is South African and is also Robyn’s coach,” Ferrand-Prévot explained. “For my winter training, he proposed that I race the Tankwa Trek, which I did. I felt so good spending time in South Africa, for my preparation before the XCO World Cup season, that we had a discussion at the end of the Tankwa Trek, and we thought it could be great to add the Absa Cape Epic to my planning too.”
“Following the Olympics, and all I learned there, I wanted to prepare for the 2022 season a bit differently,” the three-time XCO World Champion added. “So, I had a big technical training block, from November to January, and now it's time for me to come back to racing. To prepare for the excitement of competition and the specific skills it requires. Racing in South Africa is the perfect solution for that. The weather conditions are ideal, the country and the trails are just amazing, the timing is excellent, and it's new to me. I love to discover new things! If this approach works out well in 2022 and I enjoy the Absa Cape Epic this year, why not come back again in the years to come?”
“Especially as I’ve had the race on my mind for a few years now” she continued. “Due to the pandemic and then the Olympics during the last two years, participating just wasn’t possible. But it's a legendary race, and it's ideal because of the weather and racing conditions, the trails, but also the type of effort racing it requires as an athlete and the quality of the organisation.”
“I have a super opportunity to ride with Robyn this year,” Ferrand-Prévot smiled. “This year we built a women's team for the race and that is exactly the idea of what I want to bring to BMC MTB Racing! I’m excited to start and discover the Absa Cape Epic now.”
For De Groot the opportunity to race with Ferrand-Prévot has come at a strange time. “The past year has been a tough one and as many may or may not know, I needed to take time out to gain a fresh perspective” the 2021 Absa Cape Epic podium finisher and Swiss Epic winner confessed. “The request from Pauline came during such an interesting time of my career, while I had been taking a break and without the Absa Cape Epic in my 2022 plans.”
“Pauline’s request came up out of the blue really,” De Groot smiled. “But, once I heard what Pauline’s objectives for her Absa Cape Epic campaign would be, I told her I’d be honoured to join her. I also saw it as an opportunity to race my final Absa Cape Epic, as I enter a transition phase in my career.”
“As I mentioned, the late decision to tackle the Absa Cape Epic together means we will work with what we have to do the best that we can,” the South African stated. “We’ll take each day as it comes, use our experience – Pauline is no stranger to stage races in the sense that she has experience from road racing where multi day tours have also been a part of her career – to offset the lack of route homework we have been able to do. The Absa Cape Epic is relentless so if we can finish it with good feelings and ticking the boxes of our objectives then it will have been a worthwhile project.”