“The FedGroup Berg & Bush is one of the true mountain bike stage races in that the route offers such a variety of challenges,” said Stewart. “This means that you don’t only have to have good endurance and fitness, but also a decent level of skill to be able to race well on the high percentage of singletrack and the long, fast descents.
“There are no ridiculously long stretches of just transition kilometres, with the organisers keeping the route challenging but stimulating. It’s as much fun as it is tough. We’re definitely looking forward to defending our title,” smiled Stewart.
Looser will team up with top South African Under-23 rider, Brendon Davids, to form a second FedGroup Itec team for the Berg & Bush event. Looser (24) is a two-time European Under-23 Marathon Champion, making this a formidable pairing and possibly the biggest threat to Stewart and MacDonald’s title defence.
FedGroup Itec have added multiple South African champion, current ABSA Cape Epic champion and former Olympian, Yolande Speedy, to their squad for Berg & Bush. Speedy will join Bridgette Stewart in the FedGroup Itec Women’s Team for the event.
Stewart is in good form following her second place in the Mixed Category and top 15 overall finish alongside Chris Wolhuter at the 3 Towers last weekend, while Speedy is returning to her best racing condition following a long injury layoff earlier in the year.
Straight after the team’s assault on the FedGroup Berg & Bush, they will head to the Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape to tackle the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek seven-day stage race, where Stewart and Looser will look to extend the team’s 2013 stage race success, which includes overall team wins at Isuzu Ride the Rock, Mzansi Tour, Old Mutual joBerg2c, Pennypinchers Dr Evil Classic, Isuzu 3 Towers, as well as a number of stage wins and podium finishes at other events.
FedGroup Itec will only field the one team in the Cape Pioneer Trek following the decision to let former winner, Kevin Evans, recover fully from the abdominal surgery he underwent earlier in the year.
“We have a big year planned for 2014 and would rather have Kevin fully recovered and back to 100% health and fitness. So we have instructed him to spend the rest of 2013 focussing on his recovery and building a base again. This is only possible because we have such understanding sponsors in FedGroup and Itec,” explained Stewart.
The FedGroup Berg & Bush Descent starts on Friday near Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State. It is the first of three Berg & Bush events in a 10-day period, the others being the Great Trek (15-17 October) and the Two Day (20-21 October).