Paez (34) is the bronze medalist from the 2013 and 2015 International Cycling Union Marathon World Championships and finished fourth in 2016 after being delayed by a mechanical, just 4km from the finish while in the lead. He also won the 2014 Alpentour Trophy, a tough four-day stage race in Austria, as well as the Volcat GP in Catalonia earlier this year, confirming his stage-racing prowess.
The only South African to have won the Cape Epic overall was the late Burry Stander (2011 and 2012) and, after Namibian racing legend, Mannie Heymans, just the second rider from the Southern Hemisphere to stand on the coveted final podium top step. As Team Kansai Plascon, Knox and Paez are eager to add their names to those statistics.
For Knox (29), Cape Epic victory remains a motivating factor. He won both the national marathon title and the national marathon series in 2016 and feels he has reached a level that will enable him to be able to compete for the overall win.
“Many of my Cape Epics were as a back-up rider to a higher profile team. I didn’t do the race in 2016, but am excited to give it a full go with Team Kansai Plascon next year. It’s shaping up to be a strong field which will increase the pressure and the racing intensity – conditions I thrive on,” said Knox.
“I haven’t met Leo (Paez) yet, but I have followed him online and I understand that we have similar strengths. We are both light and strong climbers, but also have good skill levels from having competed in cross-country racing. I will obviously use my Cape Epic experience to guide Leo and we have a strong back-up team, which is essential if you want to be in a position to win the Cape Epic these days,” said Knox.
The back-up team, Kansai Plascon 2, comprises experienced Italian racers, Mirko Pirazzoli and Alessandro Gambino, who are teammates of Paez on the Polimedical FRM Threeface team, based in Italy. Both riders are also accomplished bicycle mechanics, which may come in useful should Knox or Paez encounter any major mechanical problems during the race
“A professional mountain bike racer must participate at least once in the Cape Epic, the toughest stage race in the world. With the support of Kansai Plascon as well as other sponsors, Polimedical, FRM, Threeface and This Way Out, I will have this opportunity. And it looks like 2017 will be a great year to compete because it has a very strong start list already,” said Paez.
“In Max Knox I will have an experienced partner and we will have very good team support as well. We will be going into the race not to just finish, but to fight for the overall title,” added Paez, who will arrive in South Africa in early March to begin his preparation with Knox.
As Africa’s largest paint manufacturer, Kansai Plascon (the world’s sixth largest coatings company) is the premium choice in retail, professional, industrial, furniture and automotive coatings markets across the continent.
“The opportunity to sponsor a top Professional team at the Cape Epic is an opportunity we just had to take,” said Derek Botha, Head of Group Marketing for Kansai Plascon.
“The Cape Epic is the iconic mountain biking stage race globally, just as Plascon is the most iconic coatings brand in Africa. The Cape Epic gives us an incredible platform for our brand as well as an opportunity to engage with consumers and our customers in a unique manner. The Kansai paint group is a global coatings company with operations on almost every continent. This global collaboration is evident in the make-up of our team with our top riders from South Africa, Columbia and Italy who have one goal, and that is to win this most prestigious event.”
Team Kansai Plascon 1
Name: Héctor Leonardo Páez León
Epics completed: None
Weight: 67 kg
Profession: Professional mountain bike racer for Team POLIMEDICAL FRM
Bike: FRM Anakin
Components: FRM Components / SRAM Eagle
I entered the Absa Cape Epic... because it’s the most important mountain bike stage race and I would like to try and win it.
Best results: 2012 and 2016 Colombian national XCO champion; 2014 Alpentour Trophy winner; 2013 UCI Marathon World Championships bronze medal; 2015 UCI Marathon World Championships bronze medal; 2016 UCI Marathon World Championships 4th.
Name: Max Knox
Country: South Africa
Epics Completed: 7
Profession: Professional mountain bike racer
Bike: Rocky Mountain Element 999RSL
Components: SRAM XX1
I entered the Absa Cape Epic... to try and become the second South African to win it.
Best results: 2012 South African Marathon Champion; 2016 South African Marathon Champion; 2012 MTN National Marathon Series winner; 2016 Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series winner; 2011 Cape Pioneer Trek winner.
Follow Team Kansai Plascon’s progress on twitter: @TeamPlascon. For more information on Plascon, visit www.plascon.co.za