Stepping Out

of the Grand Master's Shadows

The long-time doyen of the Grand Masters competition Bart Brentjens is commentating on, rather than participating in, the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. Though his rivals for the purple jersey competition should not rejoice, as two of his teammates have combined to challenge for the title. 

Bart Brentjens will be in the commentary booth rather than on the bike during the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. It is not only cycling fans rejoicing at this move, which will undoubtedly add tremendous value to the live broadcast, but also the Dutch legend’s rivals for the Grand Masters competition. Sadly, for the men’s team between the ages of 50 and 59 two formidable teammates of Brentjens are stepping into his shoes.

Abraao Azevedo has taken part in nine editions of the Absa Cape Epic winning the NTT Masters and then the Grand Masters competition in all but three of them. Since 2014 when he was recruited to join Brentjens, after beating the first Olympic Mountain Bike Champion in the 2013 race, he has ridden exclusively with the KMC Ridley team owner. The only edition that Azevedo missed in that time was the October Epic of 2021. That year Peter Vesel won the Grand Masters race alongside Brentjens.

For 2024 Azevedo and Vesel form a formidable team. The Brazilian’s category victories and race finishes are augmented by the Slovenian’s seven Absa Cape Epic finishes and two category victories, which include the Toyota Mixed competition in 2015. Competing as team KMC - AAZ SPORTS they are the favourites for the category.

They will however face competition from Oliver Imfeld and his Pedal Project partner Thomas Jauner. Imfeld is a multiple time SPAR Swiss Epic Masters category winner and Jauner is himself an age-category podium finisher in the Swiss Epic Series event. Niccolo Violati and Andrea Cuomo may also present a challenge for the category favourites, if their media duties for SportItalia do not impact on their speed too much.

In the women’s Grand Masters race there are two formidable teams who should provide each other with stern competition. The first is the inaugural women’s champion Hanlie Booyens and her 2024 teammate Michelle Lombardi. Booyens and Lombardi have won virtually every mountain bike race and trail run, between them, in the Noughties and take a relaxed but quietly competitive approach to age-category racing.

The Toyota Memory Keepers’ main rivals are likely to be Jane Fisher and Collette Bastard. The pair have been racing together throughout 2024 and mix having a good time with riding hard like few in the peloton can. Even their team’s name, Lime Princesses, showcases their fun-loving approach.

This year’s Grand Masters Women’s competition is just the second in the event’s history, but as too few teams qualified in 2023 it could be the first time the trophy is awarded. Along with the favourites the category also features the iLoveBoobies combination, of Nicolien Booysen and Nicky Webb; the Musas Paradisiacas team, of Magdalena Mihura and Patricia Bertolucci, from Brazil; and the Rola Motor Group pairing of Comine Claassen and Fiona Austin.