The Shimano Australia team of Brendan Johnston and Cameron Ivory have a long history of competing against one another in their home country. For the 2019 Absa Cape Epic the pair decided to join forces and as the current and former Australian national marathon champions have become the de facto leaders of the 34 rider strong contingent from the world’s sixth largest country.
With all that land mass it is no surprise that marathon and stage race mountain biking is exceptionally popular in Australia. Johnston is the country’s most dominant performer over the sport’s longer distances, having won the national XCM title in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Ivory was the rider to break Johnston’s impressive streak in 2018 and as such was the obvious choice when Johnston started looking for a partner for the Absa Cape Epic.
“Brendan [Johnston] said to me, ‘Hey how about Cape Epic next year?’” Ivory recounted. “And I thought, ‘aaah, he’s had a few beers, but yeah that sounds good’. Then a few weeks later an email came through and he’d contacted the event. And I thought, well this is actually happening. I’m super keen for it!” “We know we can ride with each other” Johnston said, before confessing: “But now instead of trying to get away from each other it’s learning how to stick with each other.”
“We have a very competitive series of four day stage race events now in Australia/Oceania with the Cape to Cape, Port to Port and Reef to Reef and The Pioneer. These races are generally only four stages long and feature super aggressive racing; usually we have stronger fields than the national championships at these events” Johnston continued. “In 2019 they all move from a solo to a pair’s format, I presume to come into line with the Epic Series. Absa Cape Epic is double the amount of days and more than double the kilometres though. That is what sets it apart!”“The Absa Cape Epic has a reputation of being the biggest, hardest yet most reward challenge. Friends of ours from Australia have given us a lot of insight into the severity of the challenge and I think 2019 is the right time to give it a go” the Shimano rider enthused.
Hailing from the Southern Hemisphere Ivory and Johnston will have the advantage of already being adjusted to the summer heat, unlike most foreign entrants to the race. “I think the temperature will be what we benefit most from, it’s been a hot dry summer here and from what I gather these are the conditions we will come up against at the Absa Cape Epic” Johnston explained.
There is of course also the small matter of Australia and South Africa’s sporting rivalry to consider. “We want to make our country proud” Johnston reflected. “I think the Absa Cape Epic is a great ‘stage’ to do this on. The media attention is huge and we hope to perform well, I think the biggest threat may be the terrain and occasional springbok…”
The Absa Cape Epic takes place from 17-24 March 2019. For more click here.