An Epic Journey

The development of the Specialized Epic mountain bike, and the Absa Cape Epic have become somewhat intertwined over the years. Here we take a trip down memory lane and look at how the Specialized Epic has evolved over the years, starting with the legendary Christoph Sauser’s first attempt in 2006, and including his record-sharing five race victories.

2006 - 2007


This Epic was a purebred World Cup XC race machine. Designed for short, intense racing on World Cup courses, the setup prioritised weight saving over durability. Lightweight rims, Aluminium rotors, a raw carbon frame: anything to save a few grams. This was the age of 26-inch wheels, narrow 680mm handlebars, gigantic bar ends and 2x9 drive trains. Christoph Sauser’s 2006 Cape Epic-winning S-Works weighed in at 9 kilograms.

 

In 2006, Christoph Sauser won the Absa Cape Epic with Silvio Bundi. Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Look at those narrow bars! Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.

 

2008


According to the marketing geeks of the age “this was the bike you dreamt about: an ultra-light carbon cross-country rocket” featuring Specialized's Brain-controlled FSR suspension that blasted down hills with abandon and climbed as well as a hardtail. The state-of-the-art FACT M10-carbon frame was not only light but also super stiff for lightning-fast acceleration and awesome handling. Plus, this sweet ride was equipped with the best of the best: Roval Control XC Race wheels.

 

An "Epic" weapon. Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
This was the first time that Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander rode together. Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.

 

Songo.info was founded in 2008 by Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander with the aim of using sport and education to provide opportunities for the children of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. Sauser and Stander rode together for the first time to raise funds to build the BMX track that is now synonymous with the charity program.

 

2009 - 2010


In June 2008 a new iteration of the Specialized Epic was launched with an explosive win for Christoph Sauser at UCI Mountain Bike XCO World Champs.

 

The new frame shaved nearly 700 grams off its predecessor and debuted an updated version of the Brain Suspension System which improved weight distribution by moving the brain out of the shock to the rear of the bike. This left space for only a single bottle cage, but radically improved the performance of the suspension.

 

The new Epic made its first appearance at the 2009 Absa Cape Epic. It was this year that the powerful combination of Stander and Sauser came to the fore. The pair won the Prologue and the first three stages and appeared in command of the overall race. However, a momentary lapse of concentration on Stage 4 put an end to their overall hopes when Burry smashed his front wheel.

 

In 2010, illness put Burry Stander, who was just 22 years old at the time, out of action early in the race but he and Christoph Sauser went on to make good with three stage victories.

 

Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.

 

2011 - 2012


Burry Stander made history in 2011 by becoming the first South African to win the Absa Cape Epic. Stander and Sauser won five of the seven stages and finished seven minutes overall ahead of the second placed team.

 

29-inch wheels made their debut on the Specialized Epic in 2011. A new 29-inch frame was accompanied by new 29-inch Roval Carbon SL wheels and handlebar width increased to 720mm.

 

Stander and Sauser dominated from start to finish in 2012, winning the prologue and five of the seven stages, this year finishing 27 minutes ahead of the competition after the eight days of racing.

 

Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Sven Martin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Photo credit: Gary Perkin.

 

2013


Two months before the 2013 Absa Cape Epic, Burry Stander was tragically killed when he was struck by a minibus taxi while training near his home on the KwaZulu Natal South Coast, shaking the team to the core, and leaving a gap that can never be filled.

 

Jaroslav Kulhavy stepped up and rode to an emotional victory with Christoph Sauser in memory of their teammate. By securing his fourth win, Sauser tied with Karl Platt for the most Absa Cape Epic victories.

 

Photo credit: Gary Perkin.
Sauser and Kulhavy rode custom painted frames in memory of Burry Stander. Photo credit: Gary Perkin.

 

2014


Christoph Sauser teamed up with retired Quick-Step roadie, Frantisek Rabon, for the Absa Cape Epic this year while Jaroslav Kulhavy focussed on the World Cup season. They rode to a strong second place. The ladies also got involved, with Annika Langvad winning her first Absa Cape Epic alongside Ariane Luthi for team RECM.

 

A complete frame redesign saw the introduction of the ultra-aggressive World Cup frame line, alongside the standard 100 mm Epic. The Epic World Cup (WC) was 1X drivetrain specific, offered 95 mm of travel, a steeper head tube angle, higher bottom bracket and shorter chainstays, making it a snappy and formidable race weapon.

 

Both models welcomed the return of a second bottle cage and the SWAT Box made its first appearance for neatly storing emergency spares and tools. New Roval Control SL wheels heralded the move from quick release to thru-axle, and finally, there were no more bar ends!

 

Specialized Epic 2014 Cape Epic Nick Muzik.jpg
Photo credit: Nick Muzik.

 

2015 - 2017


In 2015 Christoph Sauser became the first rider to win the Absa Cape Epic five times sporting the iconic Investec zebra stripes. Annika Langvad rode to her second Absa Cape Epic victory, again with Ariane Luthi for Team RECM.

 

The following year Christoph Sauser teamed up with Sipho Madolo, a progeny of the songo.info programme. Together they rode to an incredible 33rd place in an effort to raise awareness around the songo.info program and highlight the work being done. Langvad and Luthi teamed up for the final time, to take their third straight win in the Women’s category riding as Team Spur-Specialized.

 

In 2017 Sauser came out of retirement to team up with Jaroslav Kulhavy for one last shot at the podium. The pair came second overall to Nino Schurter & Matthias Stirnemann of Scott-Sram MTB Racing. Eagle 12-Speed was used for the first time in and the RockShox SID WC fork with Brain technology replaced the RS-1.

 

The custom painted frame which Christoph Sauser rode to victory alongside Jaroslav Kulhavy in 2015. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
The custom painted frame which Sipho Madolo and Christoph Sauser rode in 2016 to raise awareness for songo.info. Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst.
Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst.
Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst.
The custom frames ridden by Sauser and Kulhavy in the 2017 race. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Annika Langvad and Ariane Luthi took their third straight win in the women's race in 2016 riding as Team Spur-Specialized. Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst.
Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst.

 

2018


A redesign of the Epic resulted in a slacker head tube angle to cope with more aggressive World Cup courses and the increasingly technical terrain faced at the Cape Epic. The brain cartridge was moved to the rear wheel for improved sensitivity.

 

Wider bars became the standard, and dropper posts showed up more frequently in the Elite field as riders required increasing control of their bikes on rough courses. The bike retained its race-whip climbing characteristics while gaining technical capability and stability at high speed, making it the ultimate weapon for both World Cup racing and the marathon days required by the Absa Cape Epic.

 

Jaroslav Kulhavy and Howard Grotts teamed up and raced to victory, while Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney won the Women’s race, in a memorably successful year for the Investec-Songo-Specialized teams.

 

Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney en route to victory in the women's race. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
The custom frames ridden to victory by Jaroslav Kulhavy and Howard Grotts in the 2018 race. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.
The Czech Express in full flight. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny.

 

2019


This year will see Annika Langvad riding with road World Champion and Boels–Dolmans Women’s WorldTour teammate Anna van der Breggen, in what is likely to be one of the most powerful women’s teams in the history of the Absa Cape Epic. They will ride in the colours of Investec-songo-Specialized.

 

Annika Langvad's S-Works Epic in the colours of Investec-songo-Specialized for the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
The eye-catching paint job is “two-of-kind”. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
Every detail has been taken care of. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
Magura MT8 Raceline brakes provide lightweight stopping power. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
Roval Control SL Carbon rims are light weight and ultra strong. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
Renegade tyres: The racer’s choice of rubber. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
When every gram matters, go for carbon levers. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.
When all is said and done, this is one kick-ass bike. Photo credit: Ulf Beckman.

 

Jaroslav Kulhavy will team up with Howard Grotts once again for Investec-songo-Specialized, as they attempt to defend their 2018 title.

 

U23 World Champion Alan Hatherly with join forces with former U23 World Champion Sam Gaze, for their first attempt at the Absa Cape Epic as team Specialized Foundation-Spur Schools League. They will be riding as the primary backup for Kulhavy and Grotts, and as Absa Cape Epic newbies they are a dark horse team and are likely to spice up the racing, especially on the more explosive, technical stages.

 

Finally, Christoph Sauser will ride with Simon Andreasson, in the role of mentor. The pair ride for Investec-songo-Specialized with aim of providing Simon with valuable racing experience. With Sauser’s race pedigree and experience and Simon’s talent, they could still provide the field with a few surprises.

 

Annika Langvad and Jaroslav Kulhavy will be riding striking custom-painted S-Works Epic frames, equipped with SRAM’s range-topping XX1 Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, and ultra lightweight and strong Roval Control SL 29 148 wheels. The suspension will be taken care of by the race-ready 100mm RockShox SID WC fork with Brain Technology paired with the RockShox Brain shock. This bike is perfectly equipped to handle everything the Absa Cape Epic can throw at it.

 




17 Comments

Hairy, Feb 26 2019 10:27

Hurry Burry!

Headshot, Feb 26 2019 10:51

I cannot believe that people managed to finish the epic on 26" wheels. It defies belief. 

nathrix ® ©™, Feb 26 2019 12:06

Pure bike porn! :drool: :wub:

 

ccs-62657-0-70964100-1550746068.jpg

Skinnyone, Feb 26 2019 12:07

2 x 10 drivetrains only made an appearance in 2009/10....Sauser raced on a 2 x 9 system in the early years...

 

I remember looking over Bart Brenjens bike in 2007, he was riding a massive 44 blade front ring on his 2 x 9 system...

Ysterbeertjie, Feb 26 2019 12:37

I cannot believe that people managed to finish the epic on 26" wheels. It defies belief. 

It was tough... could probably be said that the route back then was more suited for a 29" wheel.  The roads were wide open and undulating.  I sometimes miss the 26"...only sometimes. haha  I remember rolling up to the start in 2008 and seeing one team with 29" wheels.  It was the first time I had seen it, I thought they were crazy.  Look at us now.  Somewhere in the world there must be a MASSIVE pile of 26" bikes.. they dissapeared so quickly! ;)

Bizkit031, Feb 26 2019 01:22

Meh

Schnavel, Feb 26 2019 01:45

Meh

 

Great value adding comment...

 

Spez have come a long way, but they have always produced quality and technology filled bikes - their latest offerings are highly drool worthy!

Wheelie87, Feb 26 2019 01:46

Pure bike porn! :drool: :wub:

 

ccs-62657-0-70964100-1550746068.jpg

 

Is that a dropper post or do my eyes deceive me?
Do not see a lever on the handlebar though...

Nick, Feb 26 2019 01:49

Is that a dropper post or do my eyes deceive me?
Do not see a lever on the handlebar though...

 

The handlebar photos are probably of Kulhavy's bike. His bike isn't kitted with one.

 

Annika also rode with a dropper on some stages at least year's Epic: https://www.bikehub....orks-epic-r7212

Bizkit031, Feb 26 2019 03:23

Great value adding comment...

Spez have come a long way, but they have always produced quality and technology filled bikes - their latest offerings are highly drool worthy!

I’m so happy for you they are downright boring and rich old men’s bikes that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Don’t really care how far they have come there are a lot more exciting bike companies out there then Spaz.

Hairy, Feb 26 2019 03:53

ccs-62657-0-40435000-1551162245.jpg

stringbean, Feb 26 2019 04:00

I’m so happy for you they are downright boring and rich old men’s bikes that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Don’t really care how far they have come there are a lot more exciting bike companies out there then Spaz.


Be careful Bizkit
You going to upset all the dentists and Doctors out there
( but I agree)

CASSIE1975, Feb 26 2019 04:12

ccs-62657-0-40435000-1551162245.jpg

 

WHAT AN AWESOME PIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S EPIC    :thumbup:  :clap:

Bizkit031, Feb 26 2019 04:21

Be careful Bizkit
You going to upset all the dentists and Doctors out there
( but I agree)

Flip that’s a good point but ja don’t really care.

Actionman, Feb 26 2019 06:16

This must be the ugliest S-works paint job EVER!

 

I really hope they were paid a **** load of money to ride it...

Actionman, Feb 26 2019 06:19

The handlebar photos are probably of Kulhavy's bike. His bike isn't kitted with one.

 

Annika also rode with a dropper on some stages at least year's Epic: https://www.bikehub....orks-epic-r7212

 

4 cables on the handlebar, 3 running to the rear...

Ruru, Feb 26 2019 10:36

Colour scheme looks like tempered steel.