Thanks to the Absa Cape Epic’s partners Absa, Exxaro Resources and STADIO Higher Education, two South African women’s teams were able to travel to Graubünden, Switzerland, to take part in the SPAR Swiss Epic. Refilwe Mogorosi and Andisiwe Skeyi, riding as team Exxaro, were joined on the start line in Arosa by STADIO SheUntamed’s Remofilwe Moeketsi and Beauty Buhle Nontobeko Ngobese.
The trip was the first international journey for two of the four women and one they had been nervously preparing for since the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. Despite the fact that each of them have two Untamed African Mountain Bike Race finishes – barring Ngobese; who joined the ranks of the Amabubesi by completing her third in 2022 – they were understandably trepidatious about the racing in the SPAR Swiss Epic. High altitude, even for riders hailing from Johannesburg, and rocky trails promised a new challenge.
A significant part of the SPAR Swiss Epic adventure for the South Africans was the journey from Mzansi to Arosa. “The flight here was long, but it was good,” Ngobese noted. “Then on the train from Zurich to Arosa, the closer we got to Arosa the more beautiful it became!”
Once the riding started there could be no doubt they were in for a new challenge. “The climbs are long. Very, very, long,” Mogorosi laughed. “We’ve had to be patient with ourselves and each other. The singletracks are very technical and they are much narrower than what we’re used to back home in Johannesburg. The rocks are incredibly sharp too, so you have to be cautious of puncturing. But wow… Switzerland is beautiful! We’re enjoying ourselves tremendously.”
“The Absa Cape Epic is tough, but the SPAR Swiss Epic is different,” Moeketsi added. “It’s hard in its own way, and definitely on par with the Absa Cape Epic.” “Stage 1 was a rude awakening,” Ngobese corrected her partner. “It was super tough! We have been relying on each other to manage our energy levels and pace. The climbing is okay, but the descending is very challenging. We’re just not used to that kind of riding, so we’re taking it easy and checking in on each other.”
“So far the highlight of each stage has been making it to the highest peak, then descending on the flow trails,” Ngobese enthused. “The Hörnli Trail in particular was amazing. It went on forever and ever!”
“We’re so grateful to STADIO and Absa,” Moeketsi thanked. “To have their support to do the Absa Cape Epic in March was already incredible, but to have the same sponsors making the trip to Switzerland possible is amazing. We’re really grateful! We also have a whole lot of other sponsors back home in SA who helped make this possible, we see you and we love you. Thanks to Cycle2Ride and Phillimon Sebona for arranging all the partnerships; we really, really, honestly appreciate everything,” Ngobese expressed. “We don’t take it lightly, we’re doing our best here at the SPAR Swiss Epic and we’ll make sure we fly the South African flag high.”
“I can’t imagine my life without riding” explained Mogorosi. “It’s a privilege for me as black South African; my parents don’t have much to support me in the sport but when Exxaro came through I grabbed the opportunity and I am using it wisely. Thank you Exxaro for making the Absa Cape Epic and the SPAR Swiss Epic a reality!”
The quartet are doing just that. With two stages remaining they are on track to earn a SPAR Swiss Epic finisher medal each. Friday’s Queen Stage, from Laax to Davos, will be the next major challenge for the Exxaro and STADIO SheUntamed teams. If they can complete it they will be well on their way to conquering the Alps.