What do you get when you bring together the strongest mountain bikers on the planet and have them race against each other for eight straight days in one of the most beautiful places on earth? You get an absolutely amazing competition, one that goes by the name of the Absa Cape Epic.
The first Cape Epic was held in 2004 in the Western Cape of South Africa. The race and its reputation grew quickly in the following years. It soon came to be recognized as one of the greatest mountain bike races on the planet. One of the greatest mountain bikers in history, Bart Brentjens, the first men’s Olympic mountain bike gold medalist, described the race as “the Tour de France of mountain biking.”
The scheduling of the race is ideal for attracting many of the top mountain bike racers in the world. It comes after the winter break and before the start of the World Cup series. While riders in North America and Europe are still waiting for the winter snow to disappear, the racers who go to the Cape Epic enjoy the final days of summer in the southern hemisphere.
In recent years, some of the top cross-country racers on the planet have gone to the Cape Epic to compete against riders who specialize in ultra-endurance events. It’s been said that athletes generally reach the peak of their ultra-endurance capabilities in their mid to late 30s and early 40s, which seems to be one or two decades later than the peak of most athletic abilities.
One of the things that makes the Cape Epic so interesting is that you’ll often find the top mountain bikers of the past, racers such as Thomas Frischknecht (the top male World Cup star of the 1990s), racing on the same course as modern-day stars, such as Jaroslav Kulhavy and Nino Schurter, our sport’s most recent Olympic gold medalists.
Of course, there are a lot more people competing in the Cape Epic than just the superstars of the sport. The event drew 650 teams this year. We pay the most attention to the top riders in the race, but there were 1300 riders and seven different divisions.
What’s more, the promoters of the race create a new layout for each edition of the event so that racers get to ride a different course each time they compete, which puts everyone on the same footing. Put it all together and it’s definitely one of the greatest events in mountain biking.