Absa Cape Epic Press Release For Immediate Distribution
The Absa Cape Epic is the most spectacular mountain bike race on earth. Photo by Nick Muzik
The 2023 Absa Cape Epic, from 19-26 March 2023, will take in 658 grueling kilometers, with 15 775 meters of limit-testing climbing through its 8 days of racing that are unlike any edition before it; the 2023 Absa Cape Epic promises to stretch every team almost to their breaking point, to trial partnerships both old and new, and to reward those resolute enough to overcome its demands with spots in The Book of Legend.
8 days. 658 kilometers. 15 775 meters of climbing. These are the stats of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic alone. But as history has proven over the past 18 editions of The Untamed African Mountain Bike Race, statistics and what happens on the trails of Africa are never one and the same.
The 2023 edition of the Absa Cape Epic sees charm and challenge exist on a knife’s edge as the route weaves through pristine fynbos and nature reserves where antelope roam free; skirts a lion sanctuary, moves between vineyards, orchards and wheatfields; scales the Western Cape’s highest and most demanding peaks, and seeks out trails that pull no punches in its 8 days.
In 2023, luxury resides within touching distance of the rugged trails. Famous wineries overlook the singletracks, offering mountain biking fans the opportunity to watch the race in comfort, witnessing the travails playing out in the Pinnacle of Epic Series. For the world’s best riders, the route provides opportunities to attack, test their rivals’ mettle, crack themselves and fight back for the honor of being crowned Absa Cape Epic champions. For the amateurs, the age-groupers from countries far and wide, expanded categories provide even more reasons to race. Or simply to fight for survival. To claw tenaciously through every meter of the race and The Trail to Val de Vie.
Past Cape Epics have attracted many of the top mountain bike riders in the world. Nino Schurter and Lars Forster (in the yellow jerseys) won this Cape Epic, after Nino won his 7th UCI World Championship title. Photo by Greg Beadle
The 19th edition’s route is defined by ventures into hitherto untouched grounds combined with the return of old favorites, including Groenlandberg, a peak revered by those who have tackled it and shrouded in rumor by those who are yet to during the Queen Stage.
The racing kicks off with a threshold testing Prologue where seconds and start batches are battled for on the trails of Meerendal Wine Estate and the greater Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club network. These trails are loved by mountain bikers from far and wide due in no small part to their fast, flowing nature and their breathtaking views of the iconic Table Mountain and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.
Stages 1 and 2 start and finish in the seaside whale-watching town of Hermanus and showcase the region’s spectacular riding, from the Hemel en Aarde Valley to beyond Stanford and into the Akkadisberg and Paardenberg mountains where limestone trails, steep pitches and gale force winds are rife.
The first transition stage of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic, Stage 3, takes teams inland from Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate in Elgin. The stage begins on trails familiar to returning teams but swiftly enters areas completely foreign to the event. The final kilometres of the stage hint at the singletrack-filled racing to come during Stage 4.
Once in Oak Valley Estate, there is a reprieve in terms of distance due to the inclusion of a mid-week time trial. Though short on kilometres, it is big on meters climbed per kilometer and the punchy nature of Elgin’s terrain is sure to trial fitness, mental fortitude, and partnerships throughout. Stage 4 could prove to be pivotal in the race for general classification standings.
Stage 5, the Queen Stage, departs Oak Valley Estate in the direction of Lourensford Wine Estate and pits teams against a climb of Tierkop followed by Groenlandberg, a notorious peak towering 1 181 meters above sea level. Stage 5 is sure to be remembered for years to come thanks, in no small part, to the prominent climbs and the perilous downhill portage of Gantouw Pass, where the scars of ox wagon wheels now remind us of the transportation modes of old.
The penultimate stage of the 2023 race marks a historic day for the Absa Cape Epic. The entire 82-kilometer route takes place within the grounds of one single estate – Lourensford Wine Estate, one of the largest and most singletrack-laden properties in South Africa. Lourensford Wine Estate plays host to the race for two nights and is sure to offer a display of mountain biking bliss for teams and fans alike before Stage 7, The Trail to Val de Vie, begins.
The final stage, from Lourensford to Val de Vie Estate, is fittingly tough. Featuring two ferocious climbs and some of South Africa’s most iconic singletracks, The Trail to Val de Vie is both challenging and exhilarating. For any team wearing a leader jersey going into Stage 7 their last day will be a stressful one. Speed Company Racing proved the Grand Finale is no procession in 2022 and 2023’s conclusion provides far more opportunities to make up time. Or lose it.
What the trails of 2023 Absa Cape Epic will deliver remains to be seen, but what is guaranteed is a race for the ages. Learn more about the Absa Cape Epic route here.
2023 Absa Cape Epic Route Descriptions
Sunday, 19 March 2023
Meerendal Wine Estate
Difficulty: 2.5 Stars
A View to Thrill
Not since 2017 has the Absa Cape Epic Prologue unfolded at Meerendal Wine Estate, and in 2023 it will be a welcome return to the estate and its world-class trails. Meerendal has hosted the Absa Cape Epic on eight previous occasions, meaning that returning riders may be versed in what’s to come, but that’s before considering that the trail teams who carve and perfect the trails in the area have spent the last few years expanding the trail network across neighboring farms and estates. There will be climbing from the off in the nineteenth edition of the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race, up the Stairway to Heaven all the way to the summit of the Dorstberg. Downhill skills will be required too, on trails traversing Fair Cape and Hoogekraal before a final climb leads back into Meerendal and the new singletracks on the estate’s lower slopes. For the fans lining the trails and those watching from home the iconic Cape Town landmarks, Table Mountain and Robben Island, provide a sublime backdrop to what is sure to be thrilling racing.
The mountains, plains, and valleys surrounding Capetown, South Africa make for a dramatic landscape for the racers. Photo by Nick Muzik
Monday, 20 March 2023
Hermanus to Hermanus
Difficulty: 4 Stars
The Hemel en Aarde trails have steeped themselves in Untamed history in recent years. This is in no small part due to the extreme heat which scorched 2019’s first marathon day into memories. The 98-kilometre-long Stage 1 includes 2 550 meters of climbing as it ascends through the best of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s seemingly countless kilometers of singletracks and into the searing Overberg plains. The outbound loop trends relentlessly uphill; up Katkloof to The One before bone-rattling descents point downward. Though the descent back to Hermanus sees an overall loss in elevation, teams should be warned, it is far from all downhill. The return loop is technical and challenging, filled with rugged limestone trails which bake in the March sun, making them treacherous to the tired. Gold medal-winning wine estates provide spectacular spectator points for the fans and oases of heaven in a race through hell for the riders.
Tuesday, 21 March 2023
Hermanus to Hermanus
Climbing: 1 850m
Difficulty: 3.5 Stars
Where the winds blow
Not since 2008 has the Absa Cape Epic visited the Paardenberg. 2023 brings exploration to the area, racing trails which have been painstakingly built over the last decade. Exploring the growing network of trails around Paardenberg and Stanford requires a trek across the flatlands along the shores of the Klein Rivier Lagoon. This 15-kilometer burst, and the return leg, account for 26% of the stage distance but only add single digits to the accumulated elevation gain. That means the vast majority of the 116-kilometer stage’s 1 850 meters of climbing comes in a brutal 86-kilometer middle section. Thrills, like the Ultimate Southern Pass and Missing Link Trail, plus the singletracks along the banks of the Waboomsrivier are countered with climbs into the Akkadisberg and Paardenberg ranges. With opportunities for attacking racing combined with a relentless route, Stage 2 is sure to be one of the most captivating days of the 2023 race.
Wednesday, 22 March 2023
Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate
Climbing: 2 600m
Difficulty: 4.5 Stars
The first transition stage, from Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate, traverses wild country nestled within pockets of manicured agriculture. 108 brutal kilometers of raw, natural trails separate the race villages. Sections of purpose-built singletracks and brief flirtations with district roads provide moments of respite on smoother surfaces. 2 600 meters of climbing makes for an arduous day on the bike, however. The challenges begin from the gun, with a climb out of Hermanus and into the wild; then trails deep in the fynbos lead into Wildekrans where tight and twisty trails make gaining momentum difficult. Onwards and uphill as the Honingklip trails lead to a brand-new challenge, a hitherto unused climb into the Hottentots Holland Mountains and onto the Elgin plateau. Valley Road Farms and Paul Cluver provide final climbs before a high-speed, high-risk, high-reward run into Oak Valley ensures the stage ends on a high, ahead of the time trial on Stage 4.
Thursday, 23 March 2023
Oak Valley Estate to Oak Valley Estate
Difficulty: 3 Stars
Captives of Chronos
Time, the old saying goes, waits for no man. And nowhere is that more relevant than in the race of truth: the battle against the clock within the boundaries of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Estates. At 47 kilometers long, the mid-race time trial in 2023 is more taxing than any which have preceded it in the history of the Absa Cape Epic. Designed to continue the relentless tests which the 19th edition sets for the teams, it features 875 meters of climbing too, all of which comes in steep ramps rather than long drags. The course is packed with singletrack, making it a test of skill as well as fitness. Maintaining a rhythm to climb twisting trails – like Berg Adder – and then descend with the required aggression – down trails like Puff Adder, Vissie’s Magic and Sounds of Silence – will require absolute focus. It will be a day that, despite its composition as a small section of the overall route, will test partnerships from start to finish.
Friday, 24 March 2023
Oak Valley Estate to Lourensford Wine Estate
Difficulty: 5 Stars (QUEEN STAGE)
The Emerald Queen
The Queen Stage of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic pits teams against the race’s most famed climb, Groenlandberg. Though the imposing peak, which lurks ominously over the Oak Valley Estate race village, is far from the only challenge. The 102-kilometer-long Queen Stage heads east rather than west, towards Lourensford Wine Estate, when it departs Oak Valley Estate. Even getting to the foot of the climb requires hard work, ascending through Paul Cluver Wine Estate and up Tierkop before the climb truly begins. The Green Mountain itself is a long, steady, climb; suited for the pure climbers rather than the powerful puncheurs [sic] who will have thrived on much of the route to that point. After descending from the highest point of the 2023 race, the route winds its way towards the Eikenhof Dam, up Willie’s Trail and sections of the famous A-to-Z singletracks towards the Gantouw Pass. The compulsory portage leads into Knorhoek and across the Vergelegen Game Park where the day’s final climbs help tick the accumulated climbing up to the 2450-meter mark. Once in Lourensford Wine Estate, the River Trail leads riders straight down to the finish; mercifully without a final sting in the tail, for once…
Saturday, 25 March 2023
Lourensford Wine Estate
Difficulty: 4 Stars
For the first time in Absa Cape Epic history, outside of a time trial, an entire stage will be hosted by a single landowner. The Prologue and Stage 1 of the 2022 race hinted at the spectacular mountain biking within the vast Lourensford Wine Estate. 2023 delves into the details. Exploring trails both old and new. Taking on sculpted icons like the Lourensford Ultimate and rugged remains of South Africa’s first foray into trail building, like the Blue Gum Dam singletrack. All 82 kilometers and 2 300 meters of climbing take place within the boundaries of the estate, and given the quality of the trails, there is no compromising on the route, despite never crossing a fence. Rather, the riding is superb throughout, with the added benefit of being exceptionally spectator-friendly. The course crosses over itself as it skirts on the estate dams, creating a unique opportunity for fans to watch the live broadcast in the chill zone, then cheer on their favorites as they pass close by the race village, before going back to the televisions for the second half of the stage and eventually welcoming the teams across the finish.
Sunday, 26 March 2023
Lourensford Wine Estate to Val de Vie Estate
Difficulty: 3.5 Stars
The Trail to Val de Vie
The Grand Finale is no easy ride to Val de Vie. Rather it is a rite of passage that has been hard-earned over eight days of limit-testing racing on the Western Cape’s Untamed trails. The 78-kilometer-long Stage 7 takes in 2 400 meters of climbing, making it one of the toughest Grand Finales in Absa Cape Epic history. Beginning with a grind to the Lourensford Nek there is climbing from the gun, before thrilling singletracks lead teams through Mont Marie, Eden, G-Spot, and the Stellenbosch World Cup Course. Then Botmaskop provides the second major test of the day and the final significant climb of the 2023 race. Banhoek and Boschendal’s famed trails then ensure that the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race ends on a singletrack high, before the trails of Val de Vie provide a moment for reflection on the previous seven days. It is not over until riders cross the line, however, and the final 500 meters on the estate’s polo fields are where emotions overcome teams as they’re beckoned home by deafening crowds as heroes of the Untamed.
About The Absa Cape Epic
The Absa Cape Epic is the world’s premier mountain bike stage race. The route changes every year, leading aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through 650 Untamed kilometers of unspoiled scenery and up 16 000 meters of climbing.
The Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike race in the world and classed as UCI Mountain Bike Marathon Series (SSR) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI); this official UCI status makes it a highlight on the professional racer’s calendar. The Absa Cape Epic also attracts aspiring amateur riders wanting to test themselves against the best. It is a full-service race, meaning that everything is taken care of from the start – all riders need to think about is riding.
In 2016 the Cape Epic PTY (ltd) was acquired by the IRONMAN group and is now the pinnacle event of the Epic Series which includes the SPAR Swiss Epic in Switzerland and 4Islands MTB Stage Race Croatia.
About The IRONMAN Group
The IRONMAN Group operates a global portfolio of events that includes the IRONMAN® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® Virtual Racing™ (VR™) Series, 5150™ Triathlon Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll® Running Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virtual Running™ Series, IRONKIDS®, World Triathlon Championship Series, premier running events including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon™ and City2Surf®, UTMB® World Series events including Tarawera Ultra and Ultra-Trail Australia™, Epic Series™ mountain bike races including the Absa Cape Epic®, road cycling events including Haute Route®, and other multisport races. The IRONMAN Group is the largest operator of mass participation sports in the world and provides more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings. Catering to the full athlete experience, the company portfolio also includes FulGaz, the most realistic indoor riding experience connected fitness application aimed at preparing athletes for real-world events. Since the inception of the iconic IRONMAN® brand and its first event in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines around the world. Beginning as a single race, The IRONMAN Group has grown to become a global sensation with hundreds of events across 55+ countries. The IRONMAN Group is owned by Advance, a private, family-owned business. For more information, visit www.ironman.com/about-ironman-group.
Advance is a private, family-held business that owns and invests in companies across media, entertainment, technology, communications, education and other promising growth sectors. Our mission is to build the value of our companies over the long term by fostering growth and innovation. Advance’s portfolio includes Condé Nast, Advance Local, Stage Entertainment, The IRONMAN Group, American City Business Journals, Leaders Group, Turnitin, 1010data and Pop. Together these operating companies employ more than 17,000 people in 29 countries. Advance is also among the largest shareholders in Charter Communications, Warner Bros. Discovery and Reddit. For more information visit www.advance.com.
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