Founded in 2022 around the 2021 Absa Cape Epic winner, Matt Beers team Toyota Specialized is heading into their third season high on confidence. The squad has expanded to include, Namibian multi-disciplinary champion, Alex Miller and the youthful talent of Johan van Zyl. Already, by late February, the team has amassed several major victories including a national title, on the road, for Miller, and a UCI S1 grade stage race when Beers defended his Tankwa Trek title alongside Miller.

“We are proud to see the growth of the team as Toyota Specialized enters its third year,” says Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing at Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM). “Mountain biking is a natural fit for Toyota and being able to convert the old motoring industry saying of ‘what wins on Sunday sells on Monday,’ to cycling is certainly a positive. But the relationship goes beyond the stellar results that Matt [Beers] has been able to achieve, and the results which Alex [Miller] and Johan [van Zyl] are sure to continue to produce too.”

“They are also superb ambassadors for the sport and for Toyota,” Crompton praised. “Matt, Alex and Johan are approachable young men, who perform aspirational feats on the bike. We, at Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), are confident that they will fill Toyota drivers and would-be Toyota drivers with the same faith in the vehicles they drive as they do for cyclists when it comes to the Specialized bicycles they race.”

The partnership with Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) and Specialized Bicycles Africa brings two leaders of their respective industries together. However, it is by no means Toyota’s only relationship within the cycling industry. The local arm of the largest automobile manufacturer in the world is also the title sponsor of Toyota Cadence, a weekly cycling magazine show on SuperSport, and is the official route and vehicle partner of the Absa Cape Epic.

The eight-day stage race, which kicks off on Sunday, 17 March, is the Toyota Specialized’s next major target for the season. “That little, race in March is always a big deal for us,” Beers stated. “I’ll be racing alongside 2018 Absa Cape Epic winner Howard Grotts, and we’ll be giving our all to defend the title for Toyota Specialized Ninety One. Being able to give back to our sponsors, especially Toyota, who have supported me and the team so well, throughout the last two seasons, is really important to me. Anything can happen during the Absa Cape Epic, but you can be sure that we’ll give it our all from the start of the Prologue until we cross the final finish line, here in Stellenbosch.”

Millar teams up with Van Zyl for the race before both shift their focus to cross-country racing. “We’re targeting the Absa African Jerseys and then I’ll be switching focus to the Olympics in Paris,” the Namibian explained. “I feel the mix between marathon and cross-country racing helps keep me mentally fresh and I enjoy the diversity of the challenges the switch between the two provides.”

As the youngest member of the team Van Zyl is eager to learn from Beers and Miller. “I’d say I’m the quiet one in the team and I’m happy to have Matt [Beers] and Alex [Miller] as teammates. I’ve already learnt so much from them and I’m really looking forward to racing alongside Alex at the Absa Cape Epic, because I know that will be a great opportunity to gain invaluable experience.”

“The Absa Cape Epic is always one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year,” said Bobby Behan, Managing Director Specialized Bicycles Africa. “The success of Specialized Bicycles in South Africa is arguably influenced by the brand’s legacy of success in the race. From Christoph Sauser’s first victory, alongside Silvio Bundi in 2006, to the fantastic double success of Susi [Sauser] and the late-great Burry Stander, and on to Matt [Beers’] victories in 2021 and 2022. Winning the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race allows us to prove we have the best marathon and stage racing mountain bike, which is essential to the South African market.”

“It would however not be possible to win bike races without world-class athletes and the support of world-class partners,” Behan added. “Having Toyota as the title sponsor of the team provides Matt, Alex and Johan with the support they need to focus on riding their bikes and being the best athletes, they can be. Toyota’s professionalism and commitment has been the backbone of the team’s success for the last two years and will continue, I’m sure, in the years to come.”

After the Absa Cape Epic Beers’ focus will switch to gravel racing as he heads to the United States of America to race the Life Time Grand Prix series, which includes the world’s most famous gravel race. Unbound Gravel takes place on Saturday, 1 June 2024 and features a 200-mile race through the flint hills of east-central Kansas. Miller meanwhile will be chasing Olympic dreams in Paris after taking part in the European leg of the UCI cross-country World Cup season. Van Zyl will join Miller for a number of cross-country races in Europe as he continues his development and chases Olympic qualification for the 2028 cycle, which culminates with the summer games in Los Angeles.

The trio are thus competing across a range of disciplines and will be seen putting the Specialized Epic, Epic Evo, Diverge STR gravel bike and Tarmac road bikes through their paces. They will be competing in a Van H cycling kit, fuelled by Cadence Nutrition and will be able to see every obstacle in the trail ahead thanks to Oakley Eyewear. Specialized Bicycles’ comprehensive range of accessories provides the team with helmets, shoes, and gloves; while Specialized’s in-house component brand, Roval, supplies wheels and selected other components. Thule ensures that their bicycles are transported safely to every race, on the industry’s leading bike racks, fitted to the squad’s Toyota Hilux bakkies.