BORA–hansgrohe’s Lennard Kämna swopped drop bars and skinny tyres for wide handlebars and knobbly rubber for the first time this year. Fortunately, his Absa Cape Epic partner is among the UCI WorldTour’s most experienced off-road racers. Ben Zwiehoff only made the full-time switch from mountain to road for the 2021 season, but still managed to complete a Grand Tour in his debut season.
Zwiehoff could thus become the only rider to finish a road Grand Tour and the Absa Cape Epic in a single season. Despite his BORA–hansgrohe team’s assertion that they are coming to Africa for an adventure the chances of Zwiehoff finishing higher on the final general classification than he did at his debut Vuelta a España are good. Though, if they are to better Zwiehoff’s Vuelta 47th place a lot will rely on how quickly Kämna has developed his mountain biking skills.
“As I am from the north of Germany, I rode a mountain bike for the first time this year” Kämna nervously smiled. “I’ve been doing a few MTB rides lately and have really been enjoying them a lot. Still, technically I am far from good! It has been very cool to have Ben, next to me, helping with advice and bike set-up.”
Kämna will need more than just advice however if the off-road newcomer is to survive on the rugged terrain of the Western Cape. As Zwiehoff knows too well, a crash can put one out of a mountain bike race at any moment. The German was racing alongside Daniel Geismayr, for Centurion Vaude, in the 2020 Swiss Epic when he fell, hitting his knee, on a particularly technical section of terrain. That put pay to any dreams of success in Graubünden, while lying second overall to the eventual champions Nino Schurter and Lars Forster.
“In recent years the Absa Cape Epic course has become increasingly demanding, especially the technical aspects” Zwiehoff pointed out. “You really have to be a good bike handler to perform well in this race. I think it is not comparable to any other MTB race I did.” It is fortunate then that Zwiehoff and Kämna are not targeting results as that would put undue pressure on Kämna to follow his partner’s wheel through particularly technical sections.
“We want to have fun and enjoy the ride” Kämna clarified. “It’s not so much about results; it’s more about having an adventure. And of course, we also want to present the team, BORA–hansgrohe, from a new side.”