to Watch

at the Twentieth Absa Cape Epic 

The 2024 Absa Cape Epic is shaping up to be a fiercely competitive one in the UCI women’s race. In fact, it boasts, arguably, the strongest ever elite women’s field. Here’s a look at who to watch when the action gets underway, in Lourensford, on the 17th of March.  

There are four teams who start the race with a realistic prospect of contesting for overall victory. Among those eight women are two former winners, a four-time runner up, a double World Champion, a serial National and Continental Champion, and a pair of World Cup stars. Further down the field there are unknown quantities, and strong combinations spearheaded by proven Absa Cape Epic performers.

The main teams to watch were profiled in detail, in Chapter 2 and earlier in Chapter 3. Page back to read all about Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM, or click through to the second edition of the 2024 ride guide to read about Cannondale Factory Racing, Toyota Specialized NinetyOne, and Ghost Factory Racing. Keep reading to find out more about how they match up and who their other rivals are…

Five-Star Favourites 

#1 To Infinity and Beyond

Vera Looser’s untested partnership with Alexis Skarda should not be a cause for concern for the Namibian’s fans. The 2023 defending champion appears to have chosen wisely and what her American teammate lacks in Absa Cape Epic experience she makes up for in general stage racing prowess and marathon know-how. The Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM team could well help Looser to the first back-to-back UCI women’s victories since Annika Langvad in 2018 and 2019.

#2 Came in like a Cannonball

Four times a runner up 2024 must be Candice Lill’s best opportunity to seize an Absa Cape Epic title. Every year since 2019 the South African XCO and XCM Champion has stepped up her personal level and with Mona Mitterwallner alongside her the time is now for Cannondale Factory Racing. Even among the five-star favourites this pairing have a slight edge.

#3 Ghosting into the Epic 

Debutants, Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller are no strangers to South Africa or stage racing. Yet the Ghost Factory Racing team are a slight unknown ahead of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. There is however no denying their pedigree. Terpstra is a two-time XCO World Cup race winner who thrives at altitude, despite hailing from the Netherlands. While Koller moonlights on the road for the Swiss Cycling Federation and was part of the 2023 Team Time Trial winning squad. The Koller Express could be Ghost Factory Racing’s ticket to victory.

#4 Marathon Specialists 

Sofia Gómez Villafane’s title defense hardly went to plan in 2023. Now the fiery Argentinian is back for revenge in 2024. In Samara Sheppard she has a cool head alongside her and the New Zealander is no stranger to racing in South Africa either. The Toyota Specialized NinetyOne team’s marathon focus this season could set them up for a strong finish to a particularly difficult race.

four-Star Favourites 

#5 Columbian Climber

The CANNONDALE ISB team, spearheaded by Monica Calderon raced to fourth and a solitary stage victory in the 2023 Absa Cape Epic. Last time out they grew in confidence and strength as the race progressed. The Colombian is partnered by Tessa Kortekaas, of the Netherlands, in 2024. Kortekaas has both the stage and marathon racing pedigree to aid Calderon in her bid to challenge for a podium place this year.

#6 Not so Private Aspirations 

The refreshingly competitive Hayley Preen has benefited from a late partner swop to line up alongside reigning French XCM Champion Léna Gérault. Together the e-FORT | PrivateClientHoldings combination could be a surprise package in the 2024 race. A top five place would be a good result, though they will surely push for more at every opportunity.

#7 Raging Bull 

Natalia Fischer and Irina Luetzelschwab are undoubtedly two of Europe’s premier marathon racers. The Spanish star is a two-time European XCM Champion, while the Swiss is a multiple time National Champion and 2023 European XCM Championships silver medallist. They will undoubtedly be competitive on some stages of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic, but whether or not they can be competitive every day and thereby challenge for a top five position remains to be seen.

Three-Star Favourites

#8 Racing for Red

Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith will start the race with dual aspirations. Riding for the title sponsors, Absa, the #SheUntamed team will be targeting the Absa African Jerseys and a top result on the UCI Women’s general classification. Hill won the red jersey alongside Theresa Ralph in 2019, when they finished sixth. Matching that haul, with Smith, would be a great result in Smith’s first Absa Cape Epic.

#9 Max Effort 

The 2024 Absa Cape Epic will be Margot Moschetti’s first since 2018. Six years ago, she won a stage alongside Raiza Goulao. This year she is partnered by the highly experienced Italian, Costanza Fasolis. Realistically a lot would have to go right for them, or wrong for their rivals, for the e-FORT team to challenge for a top five place, but likewise they would be highly disappointed if they were not in the top ten overall.

#10 Efficiently Effective

For the Efficient Infiniti Insure team the 2024 Absa Cape Epic is all about gaining experience without too much pressure. Steph Wohlters has a single finish on her palmarès already and will be a calming influence on young Danielle Strydom. Strydom, for her part, has come off her best ever season, in 2023 and has started 2024 on great form. Wohlters will therefore have her hands full keeping Strydom reigned in early in the race. Expect them to challenge strongly for the Absa African Jerseys.