Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Liv had a total of five athletes at the start line of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, between Liv Racing Collective, Liv Factory Racing and Liv South Africa sponsored rider Mariske Strauss. A race unlike any other, Cape Epic is the longest mountain bike stage race in the world and requires athletes to compete in teams of two. Over eight days of racing, 680 kilometers and 17,000 meters of climbing accompanied by extreme heat, the riders were pushed to the limit.
Cape Epic veteran, Mariske Strauss competed in her seventh Epic this year, her second with fellow South African Candice Lill. Strauss joined the Liv family at the start of 2022, with the Cape Epic as one of her primary goals. In each stage, the pair was never far from the lead, and secured the win on Stage 3. Heading into the final stage, from Stellenbosch to Val de Vie, Strauss and Lill were determined to score another stage win. On the final climb of the 68km stage, the duo dug deep and pulled away from race leaders Haley Batten and Sofia Gomez Villafane. The two achieved their goal of winning the final stage and finished second in the general classification (GC), just over 12 minutes back after nearly 34 hours of racing. They also won the Absa African Jersey.
"I started getting really emotional with 10km to go,” said Strauss. “I knew we had it but was battling the emotions. I just had to keep pedalling."
Liv Racing sent two teams to Cape Epic this year. For Liv Factory, Kaysee Armstrong travelled from the United States to compete in her second Epic and join South African Sarah Hill in her third Epic attempt. After competing alongside Armstrong in 2018, Serena Bishop Gordon lined up again, this time partnered with Cape Epic first-timer Crystal Anthony for Liv Racing Collective. Ahead of the racing, Liv made the news, not just for sending an unprecedented two elite teams, but for their all-women support crew (manager, mechanic, physio) – a Cape Epic first.
Liv Racing started the Epic strong, moving into seventh (Liv Factory) and ninth (Liv Racing Collective) overall after the Prologue and Stage 1. On Stage 2, the longest day of the race at 123km and 2350m of climbing, Armstrong and Hill rode to an impressive sixth-place finish. After a tough Stage 1, Gordon and Anthony improved each day and steadily moved up in the GC. Unfortunately, on Stage 5 Hill made the hard decision to pull out of the race over health concerns. Armstrong finished the day but moved to the sidelines for the two final stages to cheer on the Liv Racing Collective team. Gordon and Anthony continued to push hard, achieving sixth-place finishes on Stages 3-6 and finishing fifth on the final stage to secure seventh overall.
“We raced better and better each stage,” said Anthony. “I’m so thankful for this team who made it possible and successful.”
All Liv athletes raced aboard the Pique Advanced Pro 29.
This year’s Cape Epic saw the deepest ever women’s field with 15 elite teams, eight amateur teams, and 47 women taking part in the mixed category. With over 350 men’s teams, women still make up a small percentage of the over 1000 total riders competing, something which the Liv team hopes to see change.
In her article for VeloNews, Armstrong wrote: “With more confidence and less fear, we can then help grow the community and opportunities for other women.”