Specialized Factory Racing bring Batten & Gomez Villafane to defend the title in the women's race
Specialized Factory Racing’s love affair with the Absa Cape Epic began in 2006 when Christoph Sauser won the first of his five titles, alongside Silvio Bundi. Sixteen years on and the brand has amassed an impressive thirteen overall victories, completed by some of the sport’s most illustrious names; including Annika Langvad, Jaroslav Kulhavý and Anna van der Breggen. During the 2022 edition of The Race That Measures All, three teams will be racing for Specialized Factory Racing, though they’ll be donning the colours of NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized.
The task of defending the title which Sina Frei and Laura Stigger won in October falls to the talented American, Haley Batten, and Argentina’s Sofia Gomez Villafane. The duo will race as NinetyOne-songo-Specialized.
In the women’s race the new pairing of Batten and Gomez Villafane have the added pressure of living up to Specialized Factory Racing’s amazing record in the Absa Cape Epic, and the 2022 team will thus have it all to do if they are to wear the first Ciovita Women’s category leader jerseys on the final podium at Val de Vie.
“The legacy that Annika Langvad has left at the Absa Cape Epic is one to admire but I do not feel any direct pressure from it” Gomez Villafane pointed out. “Specialized had a lot of talented athletes they could have picked to pair with Haley and for them to believe that I was the best option gives me great confidence and motivation to prepare the best I can. The support that Specialized has for their athletes at the Absa Cape Epic is incredible, which makes my job of pedalling my bike fast a whole lot easier to do. We do want to continue the legacy of the women's Specialized team but at the same time we know that it's the Absa Cape Epic, it is the hardest mountain bike race in the world.”
For her part, Batten was the last rider to race an Epic Series event alongside the Queen of Stage Racing, Annika Langvad. “Riding the Swiss Epic with Annika, in 2020, was an unforgettable experience” Batten recalled. “That event was such a new challenge for me at the time and to overcome each demanding stage with Annika’s help was such a great opportunity. Each day I gained something new from Annika’s depth of experience and I definitely became a better rider because of it. Thinking back on those memories and experiences has helped me prepare and build confidence for the Absa Cape Epic. Annika and I have remained great friends and I know that she will continue to support me as Sofia and I take on the Absa Cape Epic in 2022.”
Mountain biking fans can follow the progress and fortunes of the Specialized Factory Racing team, as well as all their rivals, from the 20th to the 27th of March 2022 on www.cape-epic.com.