Though best known for his exploits around a race track, on two petrol powered wheels, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini MotoGP rider, Aleix Espargaró, will swap to two self-propelled wheels for the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.
As a novice, Espargaró required a partner with experience in the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race, hence he will be joined by three-time finisher Ibon Zugasti in the Orbea Factory Team.
Taking the gap
The MotoGP season gets underway with the Grand Prix of Qatar on 10 March 2019. There is a two week break between the opening round and the second race, the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, allowing Espargaró to fit the Absa Cape Epic into his busy schedule.
“MTB stage races are getting super famous in Spain and every year there are more and more races on the calendar. In Spain, we say that the Absa Cape Epic is like Le Tour of mountain biking, so it’s the dream of every cyclist” he explained as to why he is so eager to take part.
The 29-year-old will make use of mountain biking and ski mountaineering to keep himself in racing shape for MotoGP. As with most elite athletes, Espargaró is as fiercely competitive in his second sports as he is in the one he partakes in professionally.
“This 2019 Absa Cape Epic will be my first one, so I can’t compare with any of the previous ones. But as it will possibly be the hardest ever, it will be even more epic for me” Espargaró enthused.
With Zugasti by his side Espargaró will have no easy ride. The 46-year-old finished second to George Hincapie and Cadel Evens, with Tomás Misser Vilaseca, in the Dimension Data Master’s Category in 2017.
In 2018 he finished 22nd overall with Alberto Losada. So the Spanish mountain biking fans who are following the Absa Cape Epic from home will have another strong team to cheer for, as Espargaró and Zugasti battle for a top twenty result.
Despite his exceptionally busy schedule, Espargaró will spend a little time in South Africa, soaking up the sun and the Winelands scenery before the race. “I have a super busy calendar, but my idea is to arrive four days before the start of the Absa Cape Epic and rent a house in Stellenbosch; to train a bit in that area as I heard that it is the best place in the world for MTB lovers” he enthused.