In the Saddle With Nino Schurter

Cape Epic rider Nino Schurter shares his Stellenbosch favourites along with his upcoming World Bicycle Relief charity event.

He’s won the Cape Epic stage race twice. He’s clocked up 35 cross-country cycling World Cup wins. He’s been World Champion 10 times. He has three Olympic medals to his name, including a gold from Rio de Janeiro in 2016. It’s little wonder that Nino Schurter, leader of the SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing Team, is hailed as one of the best cross-country riders in the history of cycling.

Nino Schurter at the UCI Mountain Bike Cross Country World Cup.

In 2024 Nino, who splits his time between Switzerland and Stellenbosch, returns to the Cape Epic with his sights set on another podium finish, but also a bold goal to raise millions for charity. RICHARD HOLMES asked him …

How important is the Cape Epic in your racing calendar? At this stage of my career, I realise that I need to do the races I really enjoy. And the Cape Epic is one of those. It’s in a beautiful landscape and it’s a real challenge. Having had success in the past, for me it’s one of the highlights of the racing season. I’m really looking forward to this year.

It’s been called the Tour de France of mountain biking. What do you enjoy about it? Firstly, it’s completely different from what I’m usually doing. Cross-country racing is going all out for one-and-a-half hours. You need to be fresh, and it’s super-intense right from the start. The Cape Epic is different. It’s suffering for much longer! The tiredness builds up and every morning it gets harder.

It’s also different from cross-country racing, where you know every rock, every line,
every turn. Sometimes the obstacles are more difficult, perhaps, but with the Cape Epic, it requires a different technique because you just don’t know the track.

And I really enjoy the whole adventure around the race. It’s more than just a race. It’s the country and the landscape, and beautiful morning scenes when you start. That whole adventure keeps me coming back.

Who will you be racing with this year? That’s also something I’m not very used to. Usually I’m just racing by myself, but with the Cape Epic you’re a team and you have to take care of each other. It brings a lot of different aspects into the race.

This year I’m racing with Sebastian Fini, who rides for the French team Lapierre.

The idea came up last year and he was keen to ride the Epic with me, and we decided to bring a whole charity aspect to the race: raising funds for World Bicycle Relief.

What have you got planned? Both Sebastian and I are racing on specially designed bikes, which we will auction off after the race. We’ll also be racing in special shirts, which people will be able to buy online as a full cycling kit. Then, the day after the race we are hosting a charity ride in Paarl where people can come out and ride with us, and there will be a talk and a dinner afterwards. The income from the tickets for that will also go to charity. Our goal is to raise €200,000 (R4 million) for World Bicycle Relief.

The idea came up last year and he was keen to ride the Epic with me, and we decided to bring a whole charity aspect to the race: raising funds for World Bicycle Relief.


You’ve won the Cape Epic twice before. How confident are you for this year? I’m feeling confident. Sebastian and I have been training a lot in Stellenbosch and we are both in great shape. We haven’t raced together a lot, which is a bit different, but I think everything is possible. The Cape Epic is a tough race and you need a bit of luck. It’s a real adventure, which makes it a bit unpredictable.

You spend a lot of time in Stellenbosch. What makes it a great summer training base? Where shall I start … Since 2006 it is almost my second home! I love the vibes and the lifestyle of the town. There are so many great restaurants, good coffee places, cool shops. To train there, I know I have the perfect conditions around Stellenbosch, but then I also have this amazing town to enjoy after I have done the work. So it doesn’t feel like a training camp. And there are so many amazing trails in every direction, through Jonkershoek or Bottelary or Helderberg.

Nino’s Favourite…

MTB TRAIL The G-Spot Trail just behind town is one of the best trails in the world. It’s smooth from top to bottom, with a lot of berms and jumps. I did it with my daughter when she was five and I do it almost every day when I am in Stellenbosch. So anyone from the beginner to the professional can enjoy it, and the scenery is just beautiful.

WINE FARM I really enjoy Tokara; either the Deli for breakfast or the restaurant for the views over Stellenbosch.

RESTAURANTS For lunch I love Greengate; it’s my #1 lunch place. The buffet is great, and I know that when I come from training I can get healthy, delicious food. For dinner, there are just so many good restaurants, but I always go to Genki for sushi.

COFFEE SPOT Every year it seems one coffee place has closed and another one has opened. Right now I mostly go to Monarch next to the Mason’s bike shop. I take my bike for a clean at Mason’s, then go for coffee!

Nino in action during last years’ Epic. Image: Nick Muzik

World Bicycle Relief Event

Don’t miss the opportunity to join Nino for an unforgettable bike ride as part of World Bicycle Relief. Not only will you ride alongside Nino, but you’ll also spend quality time after the ride with the rider. This event, organised in collaboration with SCOTT SPORTS and World Bicycle Relief, combines adventure with a greater purpose. By participating, you’ll support World Bicycle Relief’s noble cause of providing bicycles to those in need, empowering them with education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Click here for more information.