(NTT) Masters of the Epic 

The NTT Masters competitions, for men and women’s teams between the ages of 40 and 49, are fiercely competitive. And stacked with teams. In 2024 there are 274 teams eligible for these two categories, making up 37% of the field. The favourites for the competition are once again the Bulls Masters’ Karl Platt and Tomás Misser Vilaseca. 

The defending category champions, Karl Platt and Tomás Misser Vilaseca are back to add a third NTT Masters blue jersey to Platt’s collection. The five-time UCI elite Absa Cape Epic winner won the 2022 edition alongside his former rival, Christoph Sauser, before teaming up with Spanish downhill star Misser. Platt has started each of the 19 previous editions of the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race and one of his two DNFs actually came while wearing the NTT Masters Jersey.

In 2021 the German was forced to withdraw, during Stage 2, while leading the category. One of the benefactors of Platt’s misfortune three years ago, Craig Uria remains the Bull Masters’ biggest rival. Uria will be partnered by renowned cycling coach, Dr Mike Posthumus for team Absa Masters. The pair are no strangers to the blue jerseys themselves, having worn them in 2023, but this year they would love to ride across the final finish line in them too.

Along with Platt and Misser they will face stern competition from a Witzenberg Valley local, Hannes Hanekom his partner Jandri Ferreira. Hanekom is responsible for many of the singletracks on Stage 2, which explains his formidable strength as a rider. Also, in the category are Q36.5 JAG Riders’ M-A Robin and David George; Justin Hornsby and Jarrad Van Zuydam, of Strove Echo; Brazilians Thiago Machado and Cláudio Altivo; and the Bike-Discount Northwave team of Hans-Jürgen Juretzek and Björn Glasner.

A number of interesting celebrity teams form part of the NTT Masters category too. The one with the most cycling pedigree, thanks almost exclusively to the double Tour Down Under champion and Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Daryl Impy, is The Okes. Though David Higgs is looking lean and fit himself, perhaps out of understandable nervousness for having to partner a recently retired World Tour professional.

There is also a battle of the former Springboks between the Barney’s Army 111 and Cape Cobras teams. 2007 Rugby World Cup winning skipper John Smit is partnered by his long-time Sharks and Boks teammate Andrew David [Butch] James. They will be up against Breyton Paulse, who scored 26 tries in 64 caps for his country, and Ewert Small in the bragging rights sub-category.

Cycling media will have an inside scoop on the Absa Cape Epic and the NTT Masters competition through the participation of the Escape Collective-Songo team. songo.info trustee Nic Lamond is racing for the Escape Collective media house and writing about his experiences alongside Pieter Calitz. Perhaps the most insightful rider in the 2024 race will not be a former winner, 19 time starter or an experienced journalist, but rather the former Managing Director of the race, Michael Flinn. After nearly two decades of working on the event Flinn will ride for the first time, in 2024, when he starts for Absa - FR2 with Stefano Redivo.

In the NTT Masters Women’s race the Asterix & Cleopatra team are strong favourites. Barbara Schwarz and Nina Brenn were fifth and sixth in the elite women’s race at the 2021 and 2022 SPAR Swiss Epic. This, in addition to Brenn’s solid showings in the Toyota Mixed category in her two Absa Cape Epic finishes to date, suggests that they will be tough to beat.

Though Marisa van der Linde and Mari du Toit will certainly try. This is particularly true for Van de Linde who has unfinished business with the Untamed MTB Race. The former South African age-group champion was forced to withdraw, while leading the Amateur Jersey race in 2023 and would like to erase those memories with a strong showing in 2024.