Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield To Race Cape Epic In Last Minute Partnership

by | Mar 13, 2023 | Bike, Bike Events & Racing, Bike Racing News, Sports

In the midst of last minute health issues and crashes, there seems to be a potent all South African women’s team emerging for the 2023 Cape Epic as Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill partner up to ride.

With unfortunate health complications taking Mariske Strauss out of the 2023 ABSA Cape Epic it seemed her racing partner, and current SA Marathon Champion, Candice Lill would be left out of the world’s premier stage mountain bike race. What a shame it would’ve been to have the country’s best female mountain biker unable to make her mark and fly the South African flag against the World’s best on home soil!

As fate would have it, more mishaps ensued with Irina Letuzelschwab having an unfortunate crash that would leave her unable to race Epic with Amy Wakefield, the 2022 South African Marathon Champion. Out of the ashes of 2 disasters seems to be rising a phoenix as Lill and Wakefield are partnering up and going for glory together at the 2023 Cape Epic!

Candice Lill Is The Cream Of South Africa'S Female Mountain Biking Crop Racing Cape Epic
Candice Lill is the cream of South Africa’s female mountain biking crop! She took the African Jersey in 2022 with Mariske Strauss. (c) Si Pocock / Cape Epic

The duo have raced together at the Epic before and know each other well on and off the bike. They are arguably the 2 strongest South African women on mountain bikes at the moment and will undoubtedly be giving it their all from the Prologue at Meerendal to Finale at Val de Vie!

We reached out to Amy and Candice to get an idea of where their heads and legs are at with their last minute partnership setting them up to go for gold at the toughest mountain bike stage race on the planet.

Amy Wakefield

WA: Amy, it has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks for you with health issues and now a last minute partner change! We know that you love to race and give it your all, how prepared are you feeling for the 2023 Cape Epic in light of all of this?

Amy: Yes my health has put a small spanner in the works, I can’t deny that. I’ve worked harder than ever over the last 4 months and as a result my numbers have also been better than ever. Last week I went into theatre twice and experienced an excruciating 24 hours in hospital. On one hand my body took a bit of a knock, but on the other hand, I now have fully functioning kidneys and a big depth of training that doesn’t just disappear overnight. I have faith in myself!

WA: What excites you most about your partnership with Candice? What would you say her best strengths as a rider are and what is your biggest advantage as a team?

Amy: Candice is very strong in everything as a rider so I’ll have my hands full haha! But most notably for me as an Epic partner she’s calm, level headed, no drama, tenacious, and there’s always space for a good laugh with her. These are some of the qualities people often underestimate or overlook completely when looking for a partner.

Candice Lill And Amy Wakefield To Race Cape Epic In Last Minute Partnership
Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill raced together to win the African Jersey in 2018. (c) Cape Epic

WA: Do you think that your riding styles are well suited to the 2023 Cape Epic Route?

Amy: Yes definitely. We both like it when things get tough and really hard, that’s where I feel we will shine because there’s no shortage or toughness or hardness in this year’s route!

Candice Lill

WA: Candice you must be stoked to have a partner to ride this year’s Epic with after Mariske having to unfortunately step back due to illness! Were you holding out hope that you would get a ride? How has your training been recently with the uncertainty?

Candice: When Mariske pulled out it was highly disappointing. Many of the cross country riders have been prepping for their olympic season and so they didn’t want to split their focus. I decided to shift my focus away from Epic but it was in the back of my mind that partners could fall through or swap and that’s what has happened.

I myself have been training for the cross country season, which starts in May in Europe but have also had big races such as Imbuko Big 5 to set my base for my training. I feel very confident in my current state to compete in the Cape Epic.

WA: What excites you most about your partnership with Amy? What would you say her best strengths as a rider are and what is your biggest advantage as a team?

Candice: I’m very excited about racing with Amy. I’ve raced against her many times and so I feel as if I have an outside perspective about some strengths and potential weaknesses which is awesome because we will be able to use those to make our team stronger.

Amy, from an outside perspective, is a rider with a lot of grit. She’s really tough and never gives up, which is exceptionally important in a race like the epic. She’s got the endurance which is a strong point of hers and I agree with her comment that the race is won in the last half. We need to keep the pace constant and she’s particularly good at managing her energy. I think our personalities are going to gel nicely and I think it’s going to be a great and easy partnership. 

We actually have raced the epic before but it was a disaster! My partner crashed out and Amy filled in but she ended up getting really sick. We fought through and that’s the year that I really saw her toughness. We’re hoping for more ideal circumstances this year but I completely believe in her to dig deep and never give up.

Candice Lill And Amy Wakefield To Race Cape Epic In Last Minute Partnership
The international competition in the women’s race at the Cape Epic has been fierce in recent years, Candice and Amy will have to fight hard for the orange leader’s jersey! (c) Si Pocock / Cape Epic

WA: Where would you say your advantages as a partnership will come to bear the most fruit on the 2023 Cape Epic Route?

Candice: Amz and I are really different riders. I am more cross country orientated which is more geared to explosive power and absolute power. Yes, technically I am good but I also believe that Amy is really good. She has the endurance behind her and the pacing strategy and that combination is going to set us up well for any stage.

Amy is looking forward to the second half where things get really tough and that’s where she wants to show her true colours. It all comes down to the execution and if we can combine these strengths, know the weaknesses and execute accordingly then that’s every reason to believe that we could do well on any of the days.

You can watch Amy and Candice racing live on the Cape Epic YouTube channel or website and be sure to follow @wildairbike for unique insights into this monstrous challenge!

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