The Absa Cape Epic – South Africa

Reflections: The climate of South Africa in March is similar to the climate of Southern California in September. Photo: Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

The Absa Cape Epic has been called the most challenging mountain bike race in the world. First held in 2004, the event draws riders from all over the world to compete in an eight-day stage race across the Western Cape of South Africa.With one day for the prologue and then seven more days of stage racing, the racers battle to see which teams can complete the race with the lowest total time in a variety of classes.The Cape Epic covered a total of 402 miles this year, the shortest length on record (the longest, at 600 miles, was in 2008). A total of 1200 riders (comprised of 600 two-person teams) compete each year, spread out among both Amateur and Pro divisions. Due to the rigor of the event and a race route that changes every year, the Cape Epic is widely regarded as mountain biking’s Tour de France.

Team spirit: American Jeremiah Bishop pushes up the mountain behind teammate Erik Kleinhans on their way to 10th overall in the Pro Men’s ranks. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Aerial presence: World Cup racer Manuel Fumic (left) and Henrique Avancini of Team Cannondale tear through a corner with the helicopter right behind them. Photo: Nick Muzik

In the trees: The women crest a hill during Stage 2 of the event. Teammates have to stay close together throughout every stage to stay in the competition. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Farmland: Riders charge up a hill during Stage 6 of the event. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Epic views: The surroundings change every day, while the riders travel more than 400 miles across the southwestern portion of South Africa. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/ SPORTZPICS

View from above: The leading women splash through the water as the media helicopter flies over- head. Photo: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Foggy morning: The men’s field charges through the fog in the wooded hills during Stage 5 of the race. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Early morning: A rider sips his coffee in the pre-dawn light before the start of another day of racing. Photo: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Epic landscapes: Two teams cross another remarkable landscape during Stage 4 of the event. Photo: Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Across the Western Cape: Karl Platt of Germany and Urs Huber of Switzerland set a fast pace in the Pro Men’s division this year. Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Being watched: Karl Platt makes a quick descent during Stage 2. Photo: Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Picking their way: The Pro Women’s winners, Annika Langvad and Arianne Kleinhans, tackle an uphill switchback in the mountains during Stage 6. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

It’s over: Bulls teammates Karl Platt and Urs Huber raise their hands in victory as they clinch the overall win at the end of the final day. It was Platt’s fifth win in the event and Huber’s first. Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS