The numbers behind the Cape Epic

The 2019 Absa Cape Epic was one for the record books. It featured more metres of climbing per kilometre than any previous edition. Off the bike it broke its own viewership records with mountain biking fans tuning in from around the globe to view the live broadcast over 1 500 000 times during the eight days of racing. Those are just the headline grabbing statistics however, join us for a deep dive into some of the race’s most interesting numerical facts.

Spanish team BUFF SCOTT MTB. Photo Nick Muzik.jpg
Spanish team BUFF SCOTT MTB. Photo Nick Muzik.

 

Of the 1 380 riders who rolled off the start line at the University of Cape Town, 1 273 earned a finisher’s medal at Val de Vie Estate. That is a completion rate of 92%. The historical average is 86% (2004 – 2018), which indicates that despite the climbing heavy route the general level of preparation was higher than ever. In fact, 2019’s finisher percentage was up to a new highest level, by one percentage point from 2018. Despite that, the average speed of the final finishers – Daniel Scheniuk and Ron Dagan, of Lazy Tsfonim – was the slowest at 11 kilometres per hour since average speed records were first kept in 2014; but 11 kilometres per hour, which equated to a total of 57:37.27,4 hours of riding, was enough to claim a spot in the Book of Legend for the team that travelled from Israel.

 

The superb finishing rate for this year’s race also meant that the Amabubesi Finisher Club, of riders who have completed three or more Absa Cape Epics, swelled by 164. The total number now stands at 1 518. In terms of nations represented, locals still dominated the start and finish lines, with South Africa being the most represented nation at the race. The next best represented nation was that of José Antonio Hermida. Hermida and his fellow Spanish riders made up 10% of the field. The traditional mountain biking powerhouse nation of Switzerland was the third, boasting 6% of the total rider helmet count.

 

Cycling has long been the scene of a technological arms race. Mountain biking and the Absa Cape Epic are not exempt from that trend. 57% of the field purchased new bikes for the challenges of the Untamed African MTB Race and 12% of the field listed their bikes at being valued between R100 000 – R110 000! Unsurprisingly the number of riders participating on full suspension bikes grew from 94% to 96% in 2019.

 

SRAM drivetrains were the most popular this year. Photo Xavier Briel.JPG
SRAM drivetrains were the most popular this year. Photo Xavier Briel.

 

SRAM dominated the drivetrain count, claiming a sizeable majority by powering 76% of the bikes in the race. The question of riding single, double or triple chainrings had a very clear winner. Single chainring come out on top with 88% of riders opting for a maximum of 12 gears to get them through the 624km and 16 650m of vertical ascent. To put it into perspective, we could quite literally count the amount of triple chainrings on two hands (8).

 

Annika and Anna sporting Oakley eyewear.JPG
Annika and Anna sporting Oakley eyewear.

 

As any rider will attest, a good pair of sunglasses goes a lot further than just being functional. Oakley was the eyewear brand of choice, ensuring clarity of vision (and style points) for 58% of eyes which were staring out at the trails of the Western Cape.

 

Specialized was the most popular bike brand this year. Photo Nick Muzik.jpg
Specialized was the most popular bike brand this year. Photo Nick Muzik

 

The most fiercely contested battle however was that of the bike manufacturers. For the third year in a row Specialized topped the charts. The Big Red S proved the choice for almost one third of riders in the field. SCOTT claimed second place and Cannondale third. Interestingly, these three brands also had the most amount of category and special jersey wins between them.

 

Oliver Munnik and his fellow 11% of luddites, who still choose to shun heart rate monitors and GPS bike computers were very much in the minority this year. 89% of the field trained for the Absa Cape Epic using both a heart rate monitor and a GPS head unit. Power meters were less widely adopted though, with 54% of the riders basing their training on power data and 2019 was the first year that power meters have crossed the 50% mark.

 

Seeing the data as provided by riders in our pre and post-event surveys is always an incredibly interesting aspect of the analysis of the Absa Cape Epic; the information allows us to adapt our offering and leads us to speculate over what next year’s event will hold.




10 Comments

SCD, Jul 31 2019 06:33

So, Epic needs a little promotional article, it seems. Wonder how well they are subscribed this year...

wessie12, Jul 31 2019 07:54

I dont fully agree with the completion rate of 92% as this year I saw on more than one stage back markers being redirected shortcuts in order to make the cut off.

DieselnDust, Jul 31 2019 10:26

more climbing also means more descending so more time to rest. Its not an indicator of difficulty. The total distance was also the shortest so the stats don't lie that it was easier than marketed

Shebeen, Aug 01 2019 03:35

more climbing also means more descending so more time to rest. Its not an indicator of difficulty. The total distance was also the shortest so the stats don't lie that it was easier than marketed

more climbing is a good indicator of difficulty, but just one of many factors.

Pure Savage, Aug 01 2019 04:47

Nice to see which marketing departments have down well in the bike industry. 

RuanLeroy, Aug 02 2019 09:57

more climbing is a good indicator of difficulty, but just one of many factors.

Flip I love seeing stats like this! And I think you're quite right, it's one of many numbers but it gives the layman a good indication of difficulty. I think the specific reference to "more metres of climbing per kilometre" gives a good indication of difficulty. Taking heat, distance, wind, technicality and the camber of the trail out of the equation.

Simply put, whether one climbs 80km out of 100km and descend the other 20km or climb 90k's and descend 10, they're still climbing more of the overall distance (most mountain-bikers I know prefer less than descending).

This increases gradient difficulty exponentially (in my opinion) as less distance allowed the descent, means the steeper the gradient going downwards to make up the difference (if one needs to end at the same/similar altitude as one started for example). Add to that some tired legs on the down and you've got a brilliant and much more difficult race.

I loved the read and watching the race, it's awesome to see how the sport is growing as well as pushing brands to be better and more innovative in the future.

*do note my figures are made up to emphasize my understanding of the challenge.

CharlieGaul, Aug 02 2019 01:32

So, Epic needs a little promotional article, it seems. Wonder how well they are subscribed this year...

I hear it is sold out 

ChrisF, Aug 03 2019 06:01

Always interesting to see the stats.

Shebeen, Aug 03 2019 10:29

Here's a number.
4

The months it took them to work this out...

arendoog, Aug 05 2019 01:29

We were tougher-er than those before .And very lucky with the weather .Still don,t know why people think they need a new bike thou ??