Debut Cape Epic Delight for Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller

The womens overall podium after Stage 7 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Stellenbosch to Stellenbosch, South Africa on 24 March 2024. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller won an eighth consecutive stage, finishing ahead of silver medalists, Cannondale Factory Racing’s Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner, to win the Aramex Women’s Category of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic in Stellenbosch, on Sunday, 24 March, 2024. 

“This is incredible,” said a delighted Terpstra. “I don’t know what to say! 

“The Cannondale and Specialized teams put up such a hard fight this week. It was really exhausting, so it is amazing to be standing here as an Absa Cape Epic winner.” 

2024 Cape Epic co-champion, Anne Terpstra

Koller was just as thrilled with the victory. “It’s a dream come true – completely unbelievable. We honestly didn’t expect this when we planned to race the Absa Cape Epic. 

“We didn’t think we would be finishing our first-ever Epic like this. It was a tough week, a great race. We worked hard but we had fun as well. What a week.”

2024 Cape Epic co-champion, Nicole Koller

By winning every stage of the 2024 race (the Prologue and seven stages), the Dutch-Swiss combo matched the performance of the 2021 champion pairing of Laura Stigger and Sina Frei, who also won eight stages on their way to the title. 

The Grand Finale was animated by an early attack by eventual bronze medalists, 2023 champion Vera Looser and her partner Alexis Skarda (Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM), but Terpstra and Koller weren’t to be spooked though, and they calmly made their way back to the front of the women’s race. 

As has been the case all week, Terpstra and Koller were joined at the front by Candice Lill and marathon world champion Mona Mitterwallner.

Lill, in fine form throughout the week, pushed the pace to apply some pressure on the Ghost riders, but true to form, Terpstra and Koller were able to respond and ultimately ride away from Cannondale Factory Racing on the second half of the stage.

Mitterwallner admitted at the end of the race that she had been battling illness all week. For Terpstra and Koller, though, the week couldn’t have gone any better. 

An emotional Lill – smiling since day one – said she and Mitterwallner ‘went through a lot this week’. 

“We made the best of every situation and fought hard. I think we formed a great partnership and friendship.”

2024 Cape Epic silver medalist, Candice Lill

Mitterwallner was equally complimentary of her Absa Cape Epic partner and vowed to return for another crack at the Untamed African MTB Race. “Candice is the best athlete I have met; I really love her and I hope we can try again in the future.”

Stage 7 Results of the 2023 Aramex Women’s Category

1. Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (Ghost Factory Racing) 3:32:07
2. Candice Lill & Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing) 3:36:52  +4:45
3. Vera Looser & Alexis Skarda (Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM) 3:40:09  +8:02

Elite Aramex Women’s Category at the 2024 Absa Cape Epic

1. Ghost Factory Racing (Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller)
2. Cannondale Factory Racing (Mona Mitterwallner and Candice Lill)
3. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard)
4. e-FORT PrivateClientHoldings (Léna Gérault and Hayley Preen)
5. Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM (Vera Looser and Alexis Skarda)


Original Copy: Absa Cape Epic, with editing by gsport

Main Photo Caption: The womens overall podium after Stage 7 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Stellenbosch to Stellenbosch, South Africa on 24 March 2024. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Photo 2 Caption:  An emotional moment as Cape Epic race debutants Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller cross their eight stage win in eight starts to win the 2024 Aramex Women’s Cateogry on Sunday, 24 March, 2024. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic 


The 2024 Absa Cape Epic: Day by Day Reports 

Prologue Sunday, 17 March, 2024: The opening stage of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic set the tone with a 26km out-and-return route with 1050m climbing through the Lourensford Wine Estate 

Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller were all focus to win their first stage win at their first attempt, claiming the Prologue honours after racing neck-and-neck with Cannondale Factory Racing’s Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner in the day’s opening kilometers.

Terpstra and Koller were both racing the Cape Epic for the first time and took to the trails like seasoned veterans. The team rode smoothly throughout the 27km stage, barely putting a pedal stroke wrong as they calmly navigated the course.

“We are very happy with a stage win,” said Terpstra.

“We weren’t expecting that at all. We just wanted to ride at our own pace but then we started going nicely and getting faster.”

2022 Aramex Women’s Category winner Sofia Gomez Villafane, riding with Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-Ninetyone), finished third on the day, one minute and 11 seconds off the lead.

Monday, 18 March, 2024 Monday’s Stage 1 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic saw riders tackle the tricky terrain of Tulbagh in an 88km ride featuring 2450m of climbing, overnighting at Saronsberg.

Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller were Stage 1 winners in the Aramex Women’s category at Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh, with the stage concluded with a thrilling sprint finish after a fair amount of cat and mouse in the closing kilometres.

It was neck-and-neck between the top three teams up until the 50km mark, and then there was little to separate Ghost Factory Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing until the final few metres, but Terpstra and Koller were again the stronger team on the day to run down Lill, who had powered ahead, to claim their second stage win in as many days.

They retained the overall Orange Leaders jersey in the Aramex Women’s category, with Lill and Mitterwallner only a minute behind in the GC. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, third-placed in the GC, sat six minutes behind the leaders.

“We weren’t too sure what to expect today,” said Anne Terpstra. “It was very different being in Orange but I think all in all we did a really good job.”

“We were on a very similar level with Cannondale – we did some more work in the beginning, and they did some more work in the end. We rode at our own pace in the beginning, then Cannondale were quite strong but we made a bit of a gap at the end and had a very exciting finish.”

Ghost teammate Nicole Koller added:

“It’s very cool to wear the Orange jersey. Everybody wants to wear it and it gives us motivation and confidence going into the rest of the week!”

Tuesday, 19 March, 2024 Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic is another Saronsberg Cellar start and finish day, a distance 97km and 2200m of climbing with the bulk of the stagein the Witzenberg Valley, with the sandy and rocky terrain to test the abilities of the entire field. 

Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller claimed a hattrick of stage victories in the Aramex Women’s Category on the 97km stage that started and finished at Saronsberg Cellar.

Wearing the women’s overall leaders Orange jerseys since the Prologue, Ghost Factory Racing strengthened their grip on first place to sit one minute and 13 seconds ahead of second-placed Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner) in the Aramex Women’s Category.

“I thought we paced that stage very well,” said Anne Terpstra. 

“We knew most of the stage quite well after racing here previously, so we had a very good idea of what to expect. I must admit, though, I thought the finish was close after the final descent … but we still had quite a bit to ride!”

Ever upbeat, Candice Lill was able to laugh about her flat tyre issues. “We still had a good day, despite two silly punctures. It wasn’t ideal chasing back and we lost some energy, but all in all, we are still happy with the performance. We are right up there with lots of riding to come.”

Wednesday, 19 March, 2024 Stage 3 is a 94km trek from Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh to Wellington, another region famed for its twisting and turning singletrack trails. The racing, much like the weather forecast, promisesed to be hot.

Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller won their fourth stage in as many days to cement their place at the top of the Aramex Women’s Category general classification, and with four days of racing to go, it looked like a special effort would be required from the chasers in the Women’s Category to unseat their pole position.

It looked like Koller was in trouble at one point on the Waterval climb, needing to walk for a few metres, but as soon as she was back on her bike, she and Terpstra continued their lead from the front.

Vera Looser and the USA’s Alexis Skarda (Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM) put in a few attacks, but challenge eventually faded, leaving Ghost, Cannondale and Specialized to race for stage honours. 

Terpstra and Koller managed to up the tempo around 70km and were able to pull away from Lill, Mitterwallner, Villafane and Sheppard, allowing the Orange Jersey leaders to comfortably cruise to their fourth stage consecutive win.

“It was pretty hard in the beginning,” said Terpstra. 

“There were a lot of turns and rocks and you couldn’t get into a good rhythm. Eventually, we got going, though and found a nice pace. We were surprised to get a little bit of a gap. Once we had it, we thought we’d try to stay out in front. However, it was a long way to the finish, so we weren’t sure what would happen. But it was nice that we could keep it up until the end and take another stage.”

Mitterwallner admitted that she and Lill tried to make the racing hard for the overall leaders, but just could shake them off. “Ghost had all the answers every time we tried something. Then they attacked when we didn’t expect them to attack and for me, I could just not respond.”

Thursday, 21 March, 2024 At 88km long with 3000m of climbing, Stage 4 was undoubtedly the Queen Stage of this year’s Epic. SA riders know the trails well, and saw Lill, Beers and other local riders guiding their partners through the monstrous twists and turns on the day.

Once again, the two riders accustomed to riding at the front again kept their composure to take their fifth win out of five (the Prologue and four stages) in the Aramex Women’s Category.

With temperatures soaring in the Cape all week long, race organisers enacted Extreme Weather Protocols on Wednesday evening and reduced the initial 88km Stage 4 to 73km, removing around 400m of climbing at the same time.

While the changes to the Queen Stage provided some respite for a scorched field, the daunting stage still featured four fearsome climbs and a technical switchback descent named the Cliffhanger – today’s Toyota Tough Section – to the finish that allowed little margin for error.

The day’s racing was characterised by the three top teams jostling for position all day long, with punch and counter-punch from start to finish of the stage, and absolutely nothing separating the six leading riders in the women’s race. 

The race exploded into life when New Zealander Samara Sheppard launched an attack with a few kilometres to go, narrowly heading over a bridge to nip ahead of Terpstra and Koller, but the Ghost Factory Racing pair quickly responded to douse the attack.

“I was prepared for more attacks to be honest,” said Terpstra. 

“I think both Specialized and Cannondale wanted to make the pace high from the beginning but it turned out that actually Nicole and I were the fastest, which was nice! It was nice to know that they could try, but we’re still there, we’re hanging on. It was a very cool stage and a lot of fun.”

Friday, 22 March, 2024 After the technical and physical hellscape that was Stage 4, Friday’s out-and-back route – the final stage to involve the Wellington side of the mountain ranges – was a gentler affair over a distance of 70 km, involving a total 1750m of climbing.

The Aramex Women’s Category was business as usual with Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller cruising home to claim their sixth successive stage win for an advantage of just under three minutes over Cannondale Factory Racing in the women’s general classification. Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) finished third on Stage 5 and remain in third place overall in the Aramex Women’s Category. 

Terpstra and Koller were seemingly untroubled on the 70km stage, riding comfortably alongside Cannondale Factory Racing and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne up until the halfway mark of the day, when the later dropped back, leaving Ghost Factory Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing alone at the front.

With a handful of kilometres left, Ghost Factory Racing again made a break for the line and ultimately the stage win, with Cannondale Factory Racing dropping off the pace ever so slightly on the home stretch. 

“I think everybody expected us to attack where we attacked,” said Terpstra. 

“But we thought we’d just try and see if we can get a gap. It was not necessarily the goal to gain more time, but more to come through safely and not take any risks.”

Nicole Koller added that their knowledge of the area and the quality of the trails made for a good day of mountain biking. 

“We love these trails. We’ve also trained here before. I already knew them a little bit so it was very cool to be out there riding on something we knew; they are so flowy and totally like cross-country style riding – great fun.” 

Saturday, 23 March, 2024 Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic is an 87km stage with 2400m of climbing that will start and finish in Stellenbosch and take place on the town’s famous trail network, promising an explosive final two stages of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic.

On the event’s penultimate day of racing, Ghost Factory racing once again dominated the Aramex Women’s category, winning the stage and extending their lead in the overall general classification at the same time, to end the day one stage victory away from matching the eight stage wins of Sina Frei and Laura Stigger in 2021.

The day started with everything to play for in the women’s race, with Cannondale Factory Racing just two minutes and 50 seconds off the overall lead, likely fancying their chances on the trails of Stellenbosch. 

As has been the case all week, the three top teams Ghost Factory Racing, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne and Cannondale Factory Racing set the early pace.

Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne’s Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard launched an early attack in an effort to pull away, but this appeared to do more harm than good, as Villafane was soon spotted giving Sheppard a push on one of the route’s less industrious climbs, and by the 50km point of the race, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne found themselves a minute behind Ghost Factory Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing.

It remained that way for the rest of the race until the final 6km when Orange jersey wearing Terpstra and Koller decided to put the hammer down and race home to the finish, leaving Lill and Mitterwallner – who have given everything all week – just not able to go with the leaders.

“Today was so cool,” said Koller.

“It was really, really tough but we stuck to our plan and it worked. Every time we have tried something this week, it has worked. It’s been an unbelievable experience. Anything can happen though and we just try to make the best out of every day. The racing is to the finish line and that is only tomorrow. We take nothing for granted!”

Terpstra added:

“We’d like to go for eight wins but we will see how we feel tomorrow. We know the trails out here well and we love riding in Stellenbosch, so we are looking forward to a good, tough day again.”

Sunday, 24 March, 2024 The Grand Finale is a 67km race on some of Stellenbosch’s most iconic trails, taking riders into Jonkershoek, through Eden and down G-Spot, to finish at the Coetzenberg Sports Fields.

Coetzenberg Stadium in Stellenbosch played host to a fitting final stage of the 20th Absa Cape Epic. The stage over 67km with 2000m of climbing saw dynamic, aggressive racing in all the categories and featured the coldest conditions of the week. 

The contrast to the heat of the week was fitting and indicative of what it takes to complete this race. Every rider who crossed the line at the Grand Finale after 603km and nearly 16 050m of climbing has a very special place in The Book of Legend.

“This is incredible,” said a delighted Terpstra.

“I don’t know what to say! The Cannondale and Specialized teams put up such a hard fight this week. It was really exhausting, so it is amazing to be standing here as a Cape Epic winner.”

Mixed Category

1. Toyota Gazoo Racing (Riaan Weideman and Samantha Sanders)
2. Resicon (Angus Rodwell and Shelley Knowles)
3. Toscana (Felipe Egues Espinosa and Ana Idrovo)

Amateur Women

1. Ar&Co (Paula Lopez and Alejandra Cristina Tattenbach Arias) 
2. RoadexEMU (Krista Pūcīte and Beate Kovgere)
3. AbsaSheUntamed(Carli Cooke and Mikayla Benkenstein)

Masters Women 

1. Asterix & Cleopatra (Nina Brenn and Barbara Schwarz)
2. Absa LastLioness (Hannele Steyn and Janine Muller)
3. ILoveBoobies #FortyFour (Chantélle Bosch and Jozanne Louw)

Grand Masters Women 

1. Toyota Memory Keepers (Hanlie Booyens and Michelle Lombardi)
2. Rola Motor Group (Comine Claassen and Fiona Austin) 
3. Absolutely SheUntamed (Ingrid Avidon and Ann Harrison)

Women’s African Special Jersey

1. #SheUntamed (Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith
2. Efficient Infiniti Insure (Steph Wohlters and Danielle Strydom) 
3. Cape Classic (Tarryn Povey and Kylie Hanekom)

Exxaro Special Jersey 

Fairtree NTT 1 team’s Yomelela Mfazwe and Ongezo Mini earned the women’s green special jersey.


Prologue Image Caption: Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller take an early lead during the Prologue of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West, Cape Town, South Africa on Sunday, 17 March, 2024. Photo: Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic

Stage 1 Image Caption: Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller doubled their Prologue advantage, winning Stage 1 in the Aramex Women’s category at Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh on Monday, 18 March, 2024. Photo: Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic

Stage 2 Image Caption: Riders during Stage 2 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate to Saronsberg Wine Estate, Tulbagh, South Africa on Tuesday, 19 March, 2024. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Stage 3 Image Caption: A late surge by Nicole Koller during Stage 3 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on Wednesday, 20 March, 2024. Photo: Max Sullivan/Cape Epic

Stage 4 Image Caption: Race leaders cresting the pass ahead of a technical descent on Stage four on Thursday, 21 March, 2024. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Stage 5 Image Caption: Riders during Stage 5 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington, to CPUT, Wellington, on Friday, 22 March, 2024. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Stage 6 Image Caption: It’s all concentration as Nicole Koller wheels through a hairpin ahead of the pack during Stage 6 from Stellenbosch to Stellenbosch on Saturday, 23 March 2024. Photo: Max Sullivan/Cape Epic

Stage 7 Image Caption: An emotional moment as Cape Epic race debutants Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller cross their eight stage win in eight starts to win the 2024 Aramex Women’s Cateogry on Sunday, 24 March, 2024. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

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