The 2019 Absa Cape Epic route announced

From the iconic slopes of Table Mountain’s National Park – to the craggy shoreline of the Southern Coast. And on; traversing the famous Winelands and beyond into the high mountains of the Western Cape. The 2019 Absa Cape Epic route – proudly brought to you by Land Rover, our Official Vehicle and Route Partner – challenges, rewards and offers spectators the most revealing view of the Untamed African MTB Race yet.

 

Eight days, 624 kilometres and 16 650 meters of climbing – the bare statistics tell less than half the story. Rugged mountain trails, bone jarring dual tracks, windswept gravel roads and, yes, sand lie between the Prologue at the University of Cape Town and the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate. This is a reflection of modern Africa, where urbanization spreads to the edge of wilderness – where riders will roll out of celebrated towns, straight into the hinterland where heaven and hades are the opposite sides of the same coin.

 

In 2019 three stages battle for the honour of being dubbed the Queen Stage. The remaining days are anything but easy however; true to form even the shorter stages pack a significant punch. Take the Stage 4 time trial for example, it is filled with Elgin’s best loved singletracks but each is linked to the next by a ferociously steep climb.

 

This will be an Absa Cape Epic where form, mental and mechanical preparation are rewarded. An Epic where each weakness will be magnified and luck will need to be made. For general classification contenders and riders seeking to challenge their own preconceived limits alike it will be a race to remember…

 

2019 Overview Map.jpg

 

Prologue - The Grand Depart


Sunday 17 March
Distance: 21km
Climbing: 600m
Start Location: University of Cape Town
Finish Location: University of Cape Town
Rating: 2.5 stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Prologue.jpg

 

In 2019 Cape Town’s most iconic landmark plays host, for the fifth time, to the inaugural stage of the Absa Cape Epic. The Prologue is more than just a scene setter though; it will provide the first shake-up of the general classification and hints of who has prepared best for the herculean task at hand. 21 kilometres long, with 600 meters of climbing, it takes in the now infamous “climb which cannot be named in print” the grind up to the cauldron of spectators gathered around Dead Man’s Tree and the scenic vistas of Table Mountain Road, all forming part of Table Mountain National park. The first section of Land Rover Technical Terrain of the race is located on the Plum Pudding Singletrack which tests bravery and skill in equal measures. Expect the UCI men’s and women’s teams to blitz the course and the time gaps to be calculated in seconds. But know that further down the field, surviving the Prologue unscathed should be the aim for the day – the Absa Cape Epic really begins on Monday in Hermanus.

 

Stage 1 - Heaven and Back to Earth


Monday 18 March
Distance: 112km
Climbing: 2 700m
Start Location: Hermanus
Finish Location: Hermanus
Rating: 4 stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 1.jpg

 

Relentless. Attritional. A return to the Absa Cape Epic Stage 1’s of old and the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Rotary Drive, the La Vierge stairs and the Paddocks set the tone for a day of relentless ascents before the day’s first spectator point at Creation Wines. Then it is onwards and upwards towards the Dimension Data Hotspot near the summit of the Katkloof Climb. Baked by the summer sun it will be littered with loose pebbles, clinging precariously to a shifting sand surface. In the wheat fields of Overberg, rolling roads provide momentary respite before the war of attrition resumes on the slopes of the Babilonstoring Mountains, then descending into the Tesselaarsdal Valley – where in 2017 many an Epic dream was dashed. Turning for Hermanus and home it is downhill in theory – but reality and Charley’s Babe have other ideas. The Gorge, in the final fifteen kilometres provides the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain and one of the most exhilarating approaches to an Absa Cape Epic finish line yet. There is still one final sting in the tail though; the Water Works climb, designed to bring a tear to eye of those who failed to prepare.

 

Stage 2 - Enter Sandman


Tuesday 19 March
Distance: 86km
Climbing: 2 250m
Start Location: Hermanus
Finish Location: Oak Valley
Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 2.jpg

 

A teaspoon of cement is in order for the first move day of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, as it packs challenge after challenge into its relatively brief 86 kilometres. Tyre choice and pressure are sure to be decisive on Stage 2 where 10 arduous kilometres within the first half of the day could prove definitive. The stage starts with an ascent of Rotary Drive before crossing out of the Hemel en Aarde Valley to the west – into the sandman’s playground. Dubbed The Machine, for the mysterious landowner known only by that moniker, it provides a steep ascent followed by the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain, a rollercoaster ride along a trail carved out by motocross bikes. The key point of the stage is a brand new singletrack, cut into the Hottentots Holland Mountains by Wildekrans’ Braam Gericke. This 6 kilometre long climb gains over 500 meters in elevation and has been named the Wildekrans Tokoloshe.

 

Stage 3 - The Emerald Princess


Wednesday 20 March
Distance: 103km
Climbing: 2 800m
Start Location: Oak Valley
Finish Location: Oak Valley
Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 3.jpg

 

No Absa Cape Epic sojourn in Elgin would be complete without an assault on Groenlandberg. But in 2019 the famed emerald mountain, though the highest point of the route, does not earn the honour of being titled the Queen Stage. Overshadowed, slightly, by Stage 5 it still provides a stern test. The day kicks off with the ascent of the Nuweberg, followed by the Groenlandberg herself. For the elite riders crossing the highest point in the race, at 1 100 meters above sea level, first will yield a cash prize for the Dimension Data Hotspot award. A white knuckle descent follows, then it’s upwards again on the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain climb to Die Nek. In the Egin Valley, far below, a mix of rocky singletrack, concentration demanding dual track and two more infamous climbs await. There are riding rewards on offer too, following the last significant climb of the day, on the initially rocky but always thrilling Lebanon trails. Then the trail home follows the easiest possible route and includes flowing singletrack through cattle filled pastures, not a bad way to end the day with the second largest accumulated altitude gain in the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.

 

Stage 4 - Just Like Clockwork


Thursday 21 March
Distance: 43km
Climbing: 1 000m
Start Location: Oak Valley
Finish Location: Oak Valley
Rating: 3 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 4.jpg

 

After three marathon stages the 2019 Absa Cape Epic route provides some relief in terms of distance, but the singletrack filled race against the clock will certainly not ease up on the difficulty. The allure is rather one of a shorter day in the saddle with more recovery time. Taking in the best of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver’s plethora of world class trails, but linking them with savage climbs the mid-race time trial provides a test of power, speed and concentration. Trails like Pine Singles, Tranquillity, Nürburgring, Mamba, Vissie’s Magic, Sounds of Silence, Wonderland and the Greenhouse Effect, are linked by climbs like Tierkop, Ma se Gat, Berg Adder, Puff Adder along with a 350 meter long beast. For the fans the time trial provides the perfect vantage point, the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. The route forms an irregular figure of eight, crossing over at the Paul Cluver Bike Park; this provides spectators with the chance to see their favourite riders at kilometres 6 and 20 without having to move locations.

 

Stage 5 - Newton’s Queen


Friday 22 March
Distance: 100km
Climbing: 2 850m
Start Location: Oak Valley
Finish Location: Stellenbosch
Rating: 5 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 5.jpg

 

Overcoming gravity and fighting to maintain momentum are the orders of the day on the Queen Stage of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. Though similar statistically to Stage 3, in reality Stage 5 is by a considerable distance the toughest stage of the race. Rugged terrain and brutally steep climbs ensure it has the topography to prove decisive in the battles to be crowned Kings and Queens of the Absa Cape Epic. Out of Oak Valley the Nuweberg sets the scene for a challenging day, before the A to Z trails lead riders to the summit of the Gantouw Pass. While portaging down, heed the wagon wheel scars cut in the stone and acknowledge how easy life has become since those pioneers hauled ox wagons over the mountains. At the foot of the pass the hidden Lourensford Valley provides the chance for on-the-bike recovery before the toughest climb of the race. Snaking its way up the Helderberg, King’s Climb could work its way into Epic folklore in a single outing. At the summit the Dimension Data Hotspot awaits, followed by the Land Rover Technical Terrain – down the scintillating Helderberg Trails singletrack. Four sapping vineyard climbs separate Helderberg Farm from Stellenbosch, but the Dornier and Mont Marie trails provide respite in between; before G-Spot caps a day well spent in the mountains.

 

Stage 6 - Death, Taxes, Singletracks & Vineyard Climbs


Saturday 23 March
Distance: 89km
Climbing: 2 650m
Start Location: Stellenbosch
Finish Location: Stellenbosch
Rating: 4 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 6.jpg

 

The old saying goes that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. When mountain biking in Stellenbosch another two can be added: singletracks and vineyard climbs. Play day, or earn the right to play day; Stage 6 of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic starts with Heart Break Hill inside the first kilometre. Then it is onwards and upwards, because Botmaskop needs to be conquered in order to earn the right to swoop down Skyfall. No circumnavigation of the Banhoek Valley is complete without Nik Naks, a technical climb and descent. The climb to Tokara on the Simonsberg follows, before descending into Rustenberg Wines. An inexorable grind with a name stolen from the singletrack at its summit – Never-Say-Neverender – traverses Rustenberg, Quoin Rock, Delvera, and Uitkyk where after the Simonsberg Trails reward with singletrack descents. Across the valley Klapmuts Kop and the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain awaits, on a rocky but flowing switchback descent. The route back to Stellenbosch takes a lower line but still requires climbing all the way back to Botmaskop, where the final thrill of the day is provided by the revitalised World Cup Downhill track from the late nineties.

 

Stage 7 - The Grand Finale


Sunday 24 March
Distance: 70km
Climbing: 1 800m
Start Location: Stellenbosch
Finish Location: Val de Vie
Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

2019 Absa Cape Epic Stage 7 Grand Finale.jpg

 

No procession through the Winelands the final stage of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic still provides opportunities for general classification shake-ups. From Stellenbosch to Jonkershoek the asphalt road surface provides a deceptive lull, but do not be fooled once in the reserve the typical Absa Cape Epic terrain resumes with vengeance. A dual track climb thins the field for Bosluis. Then it is across the valley to climb Never Ending Story. The best of Jonkers is showcased by Bennet’s Red and the Land Rover Technical Terrain: Armageddon. From the valley floor the only way is up, on Fiona’s Beast, beyond a fairy tale castle to Botmaskop and through the culvert to the slopes of the Simonsberg. Vuurberg’s dirt jumps, which the route weaves between, lead to Boschendal’s Inferno and Sugar Bowl trails. One final climb and a brand new section of singletrack ensures riders will enter Val de Vie Estate, the Champs-Elysées of the Absa Cape Epic, with a smile, but in need of those last few – mercifully flat – kilometres to gain their composure. Emotions are sure to spill over still; rolling across the finish line – as a 2019 Absa Cape Epic finisher.






28 Comments

Stevief, Sep 26 2018 11:44

Looks tough but have to say as a local these routes can mostly  be done anytime of the year.  The overseas guys wouldnt notice but i would prefer the ride to be more "out there" exotic and special..  I do understand that the original Epic culture has transformed to the corporate business that it is now but i feel a lot of romance and adventure has been lost due to this.

 

But in saying this it looks like a very tough and challenging route. Good luck to all

Headshot, Sep 26 2018 12:01

Always laugh when I see the amount of climbing referred to but not the descending. This isn't meant to be fun. Masochists only :-) 

Eddie Stafford, Sep 26 2018 01:01

Jeeeezz, “rugged mountain trails, bone jarring dual tracks, windswept gravel roads and yes, sand, I am not even doing this race and I am shi…ing myself!  Sounds like a horror movie.

stefmeister, Sep 26 2018 01:53

RIP Stellenbosch trails.

Headshot, Sep 26 2018 02:06

RIP Stellenbosch trails.

I suspect that the Red Phoenix will be trashed. Should be good fun on a proper bike afterwards though!

MikeyB, Sep 26 2018 02:31

Obviously the creative design (sic) of the route was done by some lazy corporate, not even R600 worth of day permits....RIP Epic.....YOU ARE AN IRONMAN

DieselnDust, Sep 26 2018 02:37

looks like it'll be the toughest one for a while. Pity its all so "on my back door" and W2W in reverse mode.

ride to the coast with us in November and ride back again in March

babse, Sep 26 2018 02:45

looks okay 

tubed, Sep 26 2018 03:00

If you live in Somerset West - you can sleep in your own bed each night, eat home cooked meals, pick the kids up after school sports and even do a bit of work each late afternoon - so convenient - just repeat that for 7 days - it really has become higher grade wine2whales

juan pelota, Sep 26 2018 03:22

If you live in Somerset West - you can sleep in your own bed each night, eat home cooked meals, pick the kids up after school sports and even do a bit of work each late afternoon - so convenient - just repeat that for 7 days - it really has become higher grade wine2whales

off the top of my head I reckon this is the epic that has travelled the least distance from CPT airport, ie. tesselaarsdal being furtherst from homebase. hermanus as a stopover definitely the closest.

 

BUT, I'm sure the trails/route/parcours are worthy of being labelled EPIC

first time in jonkers since the first one i think too.

 

(wonder where they will stay in stellenbosch, i see that tent village being very quiet with all the other options near by)

tubed, Sep 26 2018 03:47

off the top of my head I reckon this is the epic that has travelled the least distance from CPT airport, ie. tesselaarsdal being furtherst from homebase. hermanus as a stopover definitely the closest.

 

BUT, I'm sure the trails/route/parcours are worthy of being labelled EPIC

first time in jonkers since the first one i think too.

 

(wonder where they will stay in stellenbosch, i see that tent village being very quiet with all the other options near by)

I reckon the race village will eventually end up being an entertainment and merchandise hub - in CT, Hermanus, Somerset West and Stellenbosch you can find plenty of accommodation and you don't even need to self cater with all the hospitality on offer. All very Euro tourist convenient. All very curated - maximise the experience and revenue. Offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs - something like "let me be your local host and guide for a week" make sure everything is taken care of and earn some cash as student.  

sjaak, Sep 26 2018 04:45

I hope they are dropping the price to about R9000 per person and R4000 if you stay at home.

Baracuda, Sep 26 2018 05:03

looks like it'll be the toughest one for a while. Pity its all so "on my back door" and W2W in reverse mode.

ride to the coast with us in November and ride back again in March

 

Exactly, pay silly money to do wine to whales backwards.

Not attractive at all. Especially for us Cape Town folks who ride Grabouw and Stellies every second weekend.

Certainly not the Paris Dakar of mountain biking anymore. More a glorified World Cup XC event and not sure about this Untamed Africa rubbish, it is the most gential part of the continent

Francois Pienaar, Sep 26 2018 06:58

Looks tough but have to say as a local these routes can mostly  be done anytime of the year.  The overseas guys wouldnt notice but i would prefer the ride to be more "out there" exotic and special..  I do understand that the original Epic culture has transformed to the corporate business that it is now but i feel a lot of romance and adventure has been lost due to this.

 

But in saying this it looks like a very tough and challenging route. Good luck to all

It's not about doing the routes, it's about doing them consecutively in a race atmosphere with a lot on the line.  Saying you can ride these routes any day is like saying the Tour De France isn't special, cause anyone can ride the roads when they feel like it.

Francois Pienaar, Sep 26 2018 06:59

Exactly, pay silly money to do wine to whales backwards.

Not attractive at all. Especially for us Cape Town folks who ride Grabouw and Stellies every second weekend.

Certainly not the Paris Dakar of mountain biking anymore. More a glorified World Cup XC event and not sure about this Untamed Africa rubbish, it is the most gential part of the continent

 

Wow, that's quite a submission.  How many epics have you completed?

MikeyB, Sep 27 2018 08:06

W2W Pinotage, Shiraz & Chardonnay??
Epic...Iron-Bru?

Stevief, Sep 27 2018 12:28

It's not about doing the routes, it's about doing them consecutively in a race atmosphere with a lot on the line.  Saying you can ride these routes any day is like saying the Tour De France isn't special, cause anyone can ride the roads when they feel like it.

Perhaps for you its not about the routes but if i was forking out R50k plus to ride trails i would want something special.  These trails we have ridden to death with races like w2w and all the trailseekers etc.   Your TDF comparison is stupid as thats a professional race raced by professionals, i couldnt do it even if i wanted to.  Compare apples with Apples.  There is a reason why folks prefer the J2C and the Cape Pioneer, they are ridden on routes in special places that one cannot have access to on a daily basis.

juan pelota, Sep 27 2018 01:13

They have obviously gone way beyond worrying about reusing trails from previous events, so it should be no surprise that popular sections get used again.

 

 

624 kilometres and 16 650 meters of climbing.

A large proportion of that is single track.

Uncleslow, Sep 27 2018 08:29

Perhaps for you its not about the routes but if i was forking out R50k plus to ride trails i would want something special.  These trails we have ridden to death with races like w2w and all the trailseekers etc.   Your TDF comparison is stupid as thats a professional race raced by professionals, i couldnt do it even if i wanted to.  Compare apples with Apples.  There is a reason why folks prefer the J2C and the Cape Pioneer, they are ridden on routes in special places that one cannot have access to on a daily basis.


Actually I think you are the one who is wrong... Epic is special and comparing it to w2w or similar is silly and moot - both are great events and caters to different audiences. As per usual it sounds more like it is the cost that puts you off? Why argue that TdF is for pros, when Epic is undoubtedly the pinnacle MTB stage race if you want to race the best in the world? And trust me - just because ‘locals’ spot a trail name or two they recognize, 80% wouldn’t be able to do the Epic version of the ‘same’ trails or finish in the time allocated, 8 days in a row. Saying that ‘folks’ prefer other events makes no sense... who are ‘folks’? I have done most of the events - and comparing ANY other social stage race to the Epic is mad.
Why not just appreciate that Epic is a tough stage race offering a proudly SA world class event that clowns like me can actually enter and suffer - even if it costs a bit more to play with the pros.
Lastly... If you ever finished an Epic, the cost will be forgotten long before the memory!

Dubber, Sep 28 2018 04:17

Actually I think you are the one who is wrong... Epic is special and comparing it to w2w or similar is silly and moot - both are great events and caters to different audiences. As per usual it sounds more like it is the cost that puts you off? Why argue that TdF is for pros, when Epic is undoubtedly the pinnacle MTB stage race if you want to race the best in the world? And trust me - just because ‘locals’ spot a trail name or two they recognize, 80% wouldn’t be able to do the Epic version of the ‘same’ trails or finish in the time allocated, 8 days in a row. Saying that ‘folks’ prefer other events makes no sense... who are ‘folks’? I have done most of the events - and comparing ANY other social stage race to the Epic is mad. Why not just appreciate that Epic is a tough stage race offering a proudly SA world class event that clowns like me can actually enter and suffer - even if it costs a bit more to play with the pros. Lastly... If you ever finished an Epic, the cost will be forgotten long before the memory!

I have to side with Stievief on this one.  Epic is no doubt a tough ride.  A great challenge.  A worthy accomplishment.  But for R50k+ ?  Not worth the cost IMHO.  Would I do it if someone gave me an entry - in a heartbeat.  

 

But if I was going to spend R50k on an event I would rather fly to Europe and ride the transalps or Canada and do the BC ... As an ex Western Cape local, these are the type of events that will help me forget about the money ;-)

Baracuda, Sep 28 2018 09:03

Wow, that's quite a submission.  How many epics have you completed?

 

I have not completed an Eric, but plenty of other multi-day races and rides across the Alps, Dolomites, Malawi, Mozambique etc.

The Epic is obviously tough, but my point is that 80% of these trails are ridden by us every other weekend and wine farms and forestry estates are not 'untamed Africa'

babse, Sep 28 2018 09:39

Actually I think you are the one who is wrong... Epic is special and comparing it to w2w or similar is silly and moot - both are great events and caters to different audiences. As per usual it sounds more like it is the cost that puts you off? Why argue that TdF is for pros, when Epic is undoubtedly the pinnacle MTB stage race if you want to race the best in the world? And trust me - just because ‘locals’ spot a trail name or twothey recognize, 80% wouldn’t be able to do the Epic version of the ‘same’ trails or finish in the time allocated, 8 days in a row. Saying that ‘folks’ prefer other events makes no sense... who are ‘folks’? I have done most of the events - and comparing ANY other social stage race to the Epic is mad. Why not just appreciate that Epic is a tough stage race offering a proudly SA world class event that clowns like me can actually enter and suffer - even if it costs a bit more to play with the pros. Lastly... If you ever finished an Epic, the cost will be forgotten long before the memory!

What makes the EPIC so special for you? the fact that you rub shoulders with all the Pros... but do you really tho? or is it just the medal, finishers sweater, bike sticker and bragging rights?

 

+R50k to stay in a tent, eat the same food for a week (limited on bottled water) and ride trails that cost at max R70 any other day? Not for me 

 

Im taking Dubber on this one and planning a trip to do a race in Europe next year and stay for a week for half the price. Flights and accommodation included, and I prefer preparing my own meals.

 

BTW i have finished the EPIC and it was an amazing experience but worth the penny? Not in my Opinion 

Uncleslow, Sep 28 2018 12:25

Let me regroup. Yes, it is expensive and the basics are basic.

 

But - Epic is not like all the other events. I do agree that we have plenty alternative social rides and a few semi tough stage races, but not much compares to the Epic package. It is a SA event, well put together and I believe it offers that X factor - call me vain.

 

What does make me jump onto the keyboard is that people use the 'same trails as my weekend ride'... it is not. Anyone who have ridden the Epic will tell you that most days and trails are somehow just that bit more @#$%. Can you find harder or more difficult rides? sure.

 

So, same as paying big money for a fancy meal at a premium restaurant when I can braai most meat better at home and poor you good wine too! Still not the same. The old $-value argument can be applied to cars, holidays, anything...

 

Of course I want to ride events in Europe, etc... but some may again argue that THAT is stupid when you can ride around in your own garden for less money. 'Untamed' is probably a bit of a stretch, but it is still tough, spectacular and a bucket list item for most bikers.

 

And to my friends doing the 2019 edition... hehe

Christie, Sep 29 2018 06:13

Yoh, this will be a tough route! These are my home tracks, Ive ridden most of the route. It includes lots of single track and fads descending - some enduro segments included. Im going to spectate a bit!

Moridin, Sep 30 2018 06:09

Yo, on my doorstep. Have done most of those trails in some form or other. Will probably spectate at Helderberg to see some spectacular dismounts. Will not even be a 30m cycle there from home.