CAPE TOWN, – The Absa Cape Epic has never been short of star power.
From sporting heroes to royalty, business leaders to media personalities, the world’s most famous mountain bike stage race attracts celebrities from around the world to make the event a box office hit year after year.
The 2023 edition, taking place over 658km from 19-26 March, will be no different.
This year, Cape Epic fans can look forward to a host of international road cycling greats tackling Africa’s ultimate untamed MTB race, including European and Australian riders who lit up the Tour de France in their heyday.
Another notable name in the field is Fran Millar, the CEO of British heritage fashion brand Belstaff, as well as one of the most powerful women in cycling.
Fran is synonymous with success, with many believing everything she touches turns to gold.
While at INEOUS Grenadiers, she led on the development on the team’s operational and governance systems alongside all the business and engagement strategies.
She also previously held a dual role as both Director of Business Operations and Head of Winning Behaviours at Team Sky, which she helped build from the bottom up with Sir Dave Brailsford.
In her role at Belstaff, she has made it her business to push the brand into a new era, and few will be betting against her.
Her participation in this year’s Cape Epic is made all the more special in that her brother, David Millar, the former Cofidis and Garmin-Sharp rider who dominated stages of the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia in the first decade of the new millennium, will be joining her.
Whether they plan to compete in the Toyota Mixed jersey made by Ciovita remains to be seen, but all will be revealed at the race in March.
The gap in the siblings’ riding prowess could not be much greater, though that is arguably why Fran chose her brother as her partner for the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.
“I’m terrified,” she says. “I’m hoping that his years as a road captain will be what he calls on as opposed to his years focused on winning!”
“We are best friends and have always got on really well, but we have never done a challenge like this together so it’s going to be interesting. The only times we rode together while he was racing, he used to complain about how slow we went and he’s still pretty impatient… so, I’m hoping he’s going to go easy on me.”
David’s story is the stuff of legend.
Growing up in Hong Kong, he discovered a passion for two wheels thanks to the BMX races he took part in. While he “did pretty well”, it ultimately was the decision to buy his first road bike in 1992 that set him on the path to future glory.
When he returned to the UK to live with his mother, he joined the High Wycombe club in Maidenhead, England. While he had been scheduled to begin arts school, destiny had other plans, as his career then took him to France where he won eight races riding under the banner of the St-Quentin club in the Picard region.
Instantly recognised as a star talent, David was signed by Cofidis and in his first professional season he won the prologue of the Tour de l’Avenir and the competition for the best young rider in the Mi-Août Breton.
The first of his Tour de France stage wins came in 2000, a feat he was to repeat three more times in his career. While he was dogged by controversy for several years, he re-emerged in 2006 and with the Garmin-Sharp team to put in a number of hugely impressive performances, especially in the time-trials, over the next few years.
As testimony to his red-hot form in 2010, he won gold in the time-trial and bronze in the road race at that year’s Commonwealth Games, a highlight in a professional journey that came to an end in 2014.
The smart money will be on Fran and David to wow more than a few riders and fans on the singletrack at this year’s Absa Cape Epic.