Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini, have worn the yellow zebra leaders’ jerseys in each of the last two editions of the Absa Cape Epic. This year the Cannondale Factory Racing duo have their sights set on the top step of the podium; and if they secure the title there could be no winners more popular.
Brazilian Avancini, the reigning World Marathon Champion, has the fanatical support of his patriotic countrymen to call upon. While the German cross country champion, Fumic, has done much to popularise mountain biking globally. Though he no longer races in baggies Fumic remains one of the most recognisable figures in the elite peloton. The pair owe some of their popularity to their swashbuckling, attacking, style of racing – but more to their charming smiles and readiness to share their experiences of the sport they love.
Fumic, in particular, has also come to love South Africa, spending long weeks training here during the summer months. Having already done reconnaissance rides of the 2019 route he will have near local levels of knowledge going into the race. “This 2019 route looks good to us on paper” Fumic acknowledged. He then elaborated: “More climbing also means more descent; and the technical singletrack will suit our strengths.” Adding his opinion to that of Fumic, Avancini added: “I predict a more aggressive and close race then last year. I really appreciate that a good part of the route is located on very traditional areas for mountain bikers. I hope that people will get easier access to watching points and enjoy the Absa Cape Epic more closely.”
Reflecting on their familiarity, as a team, with the South African conditions Fumic explained: “I think the biggest advantage for us is that we know the heat and the climate. This is where other international riders fight the most.”
Having finished fourth in 2017 and third in 2018 Fumic and Avancini have banked many hard lessons during the previous two editions of the race. “I took many lessons and that helped me to improve” the Brazilian World XCM Champion stated. “Mani [Fumic] and I make a good team. We truly race together. We know the race better [than they did ahead of last year’s race], I won stages, wore the yellow jersey and we were on GC podium last year. I feel that now we have the legs, skills and experience to put everything together and fight for the general classification win” he concluded.
For those watching from the sides of the trails or from the comfort of their homes and offices, on the live video stream on Absa Cape Epic’s website, the question remains around their lack of a support team. Cannondale Factory Racing are the only squad among the race favourites not to have a back-up team riding the 2019 race. “That’s true. This might be a disadvantage,” Avancini admitted. “But on the other hand I have Mani and he has me. We are not two guys riding for the same team and trying to win a race. We share the ride and this doesn’t happen very often in the Elite field. We are peculiar and so are our bikes. It’s all about risk/reward... We can’t change wheels with different teams but we have a material advantage to make up some time. Sometimes being different pays back sometimes doesn’t. Let’s see what the Absa Cape Epic will bring us this year.”