The Absa Cape Epic was first staged in 2004 and in just over a decade the race has become the Mountain Bike equivalent of the Tour de France. With a limit of 1,200 riders it is no surprise that entries into the race are very sought after and the entries are generally all sold out within 45 minutes of the announcement that they are available.
The Absa Cape Epic Route takes riders through some of the most spectacular yet challenging terrain for a cyclist anywhere in the world. The route starts and ends in the Western Cape and over the years the route has been adapted, changed and improved to create the spectacle that it is today. Starting out initially as a simple point to point race the Cape Epic is now a staged event over 8 days covering 700 kilometres.
The 2016 ABSA Cape Epic starts and finishes at the award winning Meerdendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and the 2016 route is a little shorter than previous years at 645 kilometres. The route takes riders through a gruelling tour of the Western Cape with much of the route open all year round to general mountain bike enthusiasts or cyclists. Over 8 days the Cape Epic takes cyclists through a variety of terrains, much of the route is though vineyards and orchards through 7 stages kicking off at the Saronsberg Wine Estate in the historic town of Tulbagh renowned for not only amazing scenery but also great wine.
By Stage 2 the riders will have reached Wellington then on to Boschendal and eventually back to Meerendal. The 1200 riders are in 2-man teams riding together that serves a number of purposes. Firstly there is the safety and security aspect because the race takes riders through some very harsh and remote areas and the rules of the race state that the riders must look after each other. The second reason is to make the race more than just a race and make it an adventure that is shared, many riders tell many tales, some much taller than others, and this adds to the overall race itself year on year. The riders in their pairs must stay no more than 2 minutes apart.
Similar to the Tour de France, the Cape Epic has leader’s jerseys and there are jerseys for each of the five categories of riders or teams that are Men, Women, Mixed, Masters and Grand Masters. The winners of each stage get the jersey for the next but the team with the overall slowest time receives a ceremonial jersey that adds some fun to the event.
The Absa Cape Epic has become a major sporting event on the South African and Cape Town calendar and spectators flock to the city from all over the world to come and watch. The number of international competitors has increased over the years and the event now finds itself very much a part of the cycling calendar worldwide. Coming to ride in or watch the race is a superb way to experience some the places less frequented by tourists in an around Cape Town, and if watching the race is not enough in itself then the towns and places the race travels through will certainly be worthwhile.