Top South African mountain bike racers, James Reid and Gert Heyns, have teamed up at the last-minute and will race as Team Spur at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, which gets underway near Cape Town on Sunday.
Reid (23), the current South African and African Cross-country champion, was scheduled to tackle his first Cape Epic alongside American Cross-country Champion Howard Grotts as Team Spur-Specialized. But an injury to Grotts in a crash last weekend saw Reid without a teammate with just days remaining until the event.
Heyns (22) was scheduled to race with SCOTT LCB Factory Racing teammate, Matthys Beukes, with whom he won the African Jersey in 2014, but Beukes has fallen ill and will not be fully recovered in time to tackle the gruelling eight day stage race.
The new pairing will compete as Team Spur, Reid’s current team, but each will represent his own team’s bike and gear sponsors, who have all graciously agreed to the temporary collaboration.
“Losing Howard was a big blow. He is a world-class rider and, with James, could have shaken things up. SCOTT LCB Factory Racing is in the same boat – Matthys’s unfortunate and untimely illness scuppered a powerful team with loads of potential. But professional sport is unpredictable and it teaches us to continually rise to challenges and see the opportunity beyond the disappointment,” said Nic Lamond, Team Spur owner.
“Our ‘new’ Team Spur is a chance for James and Gert to battle for the African Jersey. These two athletes are in fantastic form and lighting up mountain bike racing around the country. I am proud to see Specialized and SCOTT come together in this way, allowing James and Gert to have a significant impact on the racing. They will no doubt inspire many young Spur Schools Mountain Bike League riders along the way, which is a major part of Team Spur’s ethos,” explained Lamond.
“After a somewhat challenging lead up to the 2016 Absa Cape Epic we are very happy to have found a solution which enables two rising stars to partner in this great event. Spur is committed to supporting its professional riders in achieving their goals and creating professional ambassadors for the Spur Schools League, helping to instill a sense of belief and ambition in our young school participants,” said Sacha du Plessis, Group Marketing Executive for Spur Corporation.
“The Cape Epic is a major objective for most South African professional mountain bike racers each year. It’s a platform where they can showcase their talents against some of the best riders in the world. Matthys falling ill is very unfortunate. He’s been the foundation of the SCOTT team’s success at the Cape Epic in the past three years, having partnered twice with Philip Buys and once with Gert, each time claiming the top African team title," said Phillip Erasmus, SCOTT Sports Africa Marketing Manager.
"The new Team Spur collaboration of Gert and James makes it possible for them to compete for this prestigious title. These two riders are currently in the top form and we are thrilled that we were able to come to an agreement which allows them to compete at the Cape Epic. Both athletes have worked so hard towards this goal and ultimately, it should be about the athletes and the passion we all share for the sport,” added Erasmus.
Reid, the South African Marathon Champion in 2013 and 2014, has also been producing strong results this year as he pursues Olympic qualification. Reid was third at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme, first at the Mankele round of the Stihl SA XCO Cup, fifth overall the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek stage race (with Grotts), and winner of the popular Cape Town Cycle Tour mountain bike event last weekend.
Heyns, a two-time former National Under-23 Cross-country Champion, has been in good form in the lead-up to the Cape Epic during the South African summer. He finished fifth at Attakwas in mid-January and fourth at the Ashburton Investments Sabie Ultra-marathon in late February.
Their combined pedigree and good form, along with Heyns’s Cape Epic experience – he’s completed two editions – should see them in contention for stage podiums, the African Jersey title and possibly a top overall finish.
“It’s a disappointment not to be able to race with Matthys. We were really fired up as a team to defend the African Jersey once again. I never imagined racing the Epic with James. We race for opposition teams and are always rivals. I have a lot of respect for him though. He’s a really high quality racer and because we are both from a cross-country racing background, we have similar styles and I believe we will complement each other. It’s quite exciting,” ,” said Heyns, who will tackle the event on his SCOTT Spark RC.
“I was quite hyped to tackle the Epic with Howard. It’s unfortunate that he had to withdraw. I am looking forward to racing with Gert though. He is a classy racer and he’s very under-rated. His fourth at Sabie on that course against that field a couple of weeks ago is really impressive. We are similarly matched in terms of skill and mindset. Let’s hope we have some good luck too,” said Reid, who will be racing on his Specialized S-Works Epic WC 29er.