The Absa Cape Epic is a challenging mountain bike race through the hills and winefarms of the Western Cape. But bikers can’t let the stunning beauty of the surroundings distract them. This is no joke.
Eight days. 739km. 15 000m of climbing.
It kicks off this year at the University of Cape Town on 15 March. Riders will then make their way through Elgin, Worcester and Wellington before finishing at the Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville on March 22.
The route changes every year and takes two years to plan. “What is guaranteed each year is a challenging traverse of the area’s iconic fynbos valleys, majestic mountains, deep ravines, indigenous forests, spectacular coastlines and flourishing vineyards,” says the Cape Epic.
“The terrain is as varied as it is harsh – dusty and demanding gravel roads, strenuous rocky climbs, thrilling technical descents, refreshing river crossings and fast forest single tracks. The Absa Cape Epic route gives riders and fans the opportunity to experience the historic and scenic towns in the Western Cape – many of them off the beaten tourist track.”
Last year’s winners were German Robert Mennen and Czech team-mate, Kristian Hynek. They cycled past the finish line comfortably ahead of their rivals.
“I got some revenge for last year,” Mennen said, referencing the incident in the 2013 Cape Epic when he hit a duiker which ran in front of his bicycle and was thrown over his handlebars, breaking his collarbone.
“But I never thought I could win the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world … it feels incredible.”
Hynek, a first time Cape Epic rider, admitted he had very little sleep on the Saturday night ahead of the seventh and final stage.
“It was a big relief to cross the line after having problems on the earlier stages,” he said.
Hynek cycles this year with Alban Lakata, from Austria, and they are considered one of the teams to watch out for.
Andy Cab’s favourites this year are Kevin Evans and Max Knox. This will be the pair’s second Cape Epic together.
In last year’s event, Evans was penalised by an hour for taking a wrong turn. Their hopes were dashed for a chance to win the Absa African jersey which is awarded to the first African team to cross the finish line.
This year may be their chance.
The Cape Epic has named them as one of the top local teams: “With such a strong field, the top all-South African teams will do well to finish in the top five and most will probably race for the Absa African special jersey.”
So what do they think about their chances this year?
Evans says: “We want to have fun and, with some luck, top five should be achievable.”
Knox says he hopes to “have a smooth race, enjoy the experience and give my best effort”.
We hope so too, guys. Best of luck!