In 2021, the Absa Cape Epic was dominated by Sina Frei and Laura Stigger. The pair raced to eight wins in a row and the overall title; but their victory was no walk in the park, due to the pairing of Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss who claimed second overall and first in the Absa African Women’s jersey competition.
The last time an all-South African team won the Absa Cape Epic was in 2007 when Anke Moore and Yolande De Villiers won the women’s title. Both Lill and Strauss have two second place finishes at the Absa Cape Epic and 2022 could potentially be the year that the first all-South African team wins the elite women’s category since its elevation to equal prize money and UCI points, to the men’s category, in 2014.
“It feels good to have the support of the MTB community in South Africa and many people backing us. Our sponsors are all so supportive and will be proud of us no matter what,” explained Lill on the pressures ahead of the 2022 event. “The most pressure we have is the pressure we put on ourselves, which I feel is really healthy.”
Mariske Strauss echoed Lill’s sentiments: “I’d have to agree with Candice, we focus on what we can do and try execute our plan as smoothly as possible and adapt to the challenges as they present themselves. As top athletes we tend to already put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be at the top of our game. The local support and ‘expectations’ I find more motivating than added pressure. It’s an honour and privilege to race in our own country and the extra support we get from the local communities is such a special experience even more so as an all-South African team.”
Success at the Absa Cape Epic doesn’t just happen. Teams seeking spots on the podium put in countless hours of work ahead of the race; Lill and Strauss are one such team. Since the 2021 event, the pair has competed in several other stage races and have come out on top, most notably at the Tankwa Trek where they claimed victory by over an hour.
“I haven’t done anything vastly different to my previous years’ preparation. I believe in smart, effective, and consistent training over time. I have done a bit more strength work in the off season, which will hopefully serve me well,” elaborated Lill on her pre-Absa Cape Epic training. “Mariske and I have a strong partnership and we have learned to work well together through all sorts of adversity, which I think is a vital part of success at the Absa Cape Epic. A huge part of winning is believing you can win, and I know we are both in a space where we believe we can.”
“Like Candice, winning the Absa Cape Epic is definitely a dream of mine. I have had two second places and two thirds so I am still aiming for the top step,” said Strauss. “Achieving this goal alongside Candice would make it extra special. The Absa Cape Epic is such an amazing platform where we get to compete against the best in the world, and we get amazing publicity and an equal platform for media exposure; it’s really world-class and I cannot wait for the racing to begin.”
To follow the Faces Rola team of Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss at the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, be sure to tune in to the Live Broadcast of the event on cape-epic.com from 20-27 March 2022.