In a different category…

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There are many races within the bigger Absa Cape Epic race. Most obvious are those for the yellow zebra-striped Men’s category jersey and the orange version for Women.

Then there are the special jerseys – Absa African and Exxaro – and those striving for a top 50, top 100 or top half of the field finish. And, of course, riders involved in personal duels against their friends (or enemies, perhaps?).

But few match the intensity of the fight for the blue (Masters), purple (Grand Masters) and green (Mixed) jerseys.

Consider this: in 2015 the winners of the Masters category, for a team in which both riders are over 40-years-old, placed a remarkable 16th overall after a hotly-contested race. At times they were mixing it with the elite professionals.

And the first Grand Masters – both riders over 50 – came home in 29th position overall.

All the indications are that these three categories will dish up some thrills again in 2016:

The Masters

The category was won in 2015 was former Absa Cape Epic overall winner and Olympic gold medallist Bart Brentjens, riding with Brazil’s Abraao Azevedo, but only after fierce racing.

For eight days Brentjens and Azevedo went toe-to-toe with German Nico Pfitzenmaier and South African Robert Sim, only securing their victory towards the closing stages.

Brentjens and Azevedo will be back to defend their title and, in the absence this year of Pfitzenmaier, will start as favourites.

Their main challengers in a category that is often difficult to predict might be South Africans Nic White and Adrian Enthoven, who are both highly accomplished riders.

Spaniards Manuel Rojo Nieto and Jorge Lopez Janiero will, though, want to have a say themselves. The former has finished one Cape Epic and the latter is a first-timer, but both have the sort of riding pedigree that suggests they could challenge for a podium.

But Brentjens and the nuggety Azevedo will start as clear favourites and expect to see them giving riders half their ages a surprise or two.

The Grand Masters

It would be difficult to convince a casual cycling spectator that Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg are over 50-years-old: the pace they maintain over several hours is extraordinary and both have great bike-handling skills.

In 2015 Switzerland’s Bucher and Austrian Zoerweg won the category convincingly and they will start as clear favourites again in 2016.

Bucher has previously won the Masters category twice, the Mixed once and the Grand Masters twice. Zoerweg has raced the Cape Epic three times and won the Grand Masters category each time.

There will, however, be two teams in particular who fancy their chances of unseating the Europeans. South African Robert Sim, who has three second place finishes in the Masters category, will be partnered by the formidable Udo Boelts of Germany, a former Tour de France rider who has previously won the Masters category.

Sim has been unlucky not to win the Masters over the years and will fancy his chances in his first year as a Grand Master, while Boelts is as tough as they get.

The all-South African combination of Andrew Mclean and Doug Brown sees two riders with highly-successful Absa Cape Epic records teaming up. Mclean has in the past won the Masters category twice and the Grand Masters once, while Brown is a two-times Masters winner.

The racing in this category could be thrilling.

Mixed

In 2015 Ivonne Kraft of Germany and Slovenian Peter Vesel convincingly won the Mixed category. The German has now won the Mixed category twice and will be going all out for number three this year with France’s Jean-Luc Perez.

Perez has been a comfortable top 100 finisher in the past and they should prove to be a formidable combination.

Should they falter, though, several other teams will be poised to strike. South African Nizaam Essa, second last year with Catherine Williamson, and German Nadine Rieder will be one of those: Essa has been knocking on the door for the past two years and will be hoping to storm though it in 2016.

A popular combination and one that might challenge the leaders will be former Rugby World Cup winner Joel Stransky and Anriette Schoeman, a former champion on the road who is now a formidable mountain biker. Stransky has finished six Cape Epics and has himself become a competitive mountain biker.

On paper the toughest challenge to Kraft and Perez could come from the French pairing of Jean Francois Bossler and Fanny Bourdon. Bossler came third in the Mixed category last year and 26-year-old Bourdon turned to marathon racing in recent years and already has some formidable results. She will be racing the Absa Cape Epic for the first time.

Others that might fancy their chances are Australians Gareth and Alexis Barnes and Israelis Gal Tsachor and Idit Shub, who finished second together in 2014.

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