The Cape Epic route for 2019

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The Cape Epic has released the route for 2019, and as you would expect from the world’s most high profile mountain bike stage race, it is really going to deliver a huge challenge for those who atake the start.

With a prologue on the iconic slopes of Table Mountain’s National Park through to trails on the craggy shoreline of the Southern Coast, the route will be as varied as it is difficult. The roure will traverse the famous Winelands and beyond into the high mountains of the Western Cape.

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 urbanisation 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 singletrack 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…

Cape Epic Prologue

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

Cape Epic
The Prologue will provide the first shake-up of the general classification and should show who has prepared best for the 8 day challenge. At 21 kilometres long, with 600 metres of climbing, it climbs 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 Plum Pudding Singletrack will test riders. Expect the UCI men’s and women’s teams to blitz the course and the time gaps to be calculated in seconds. You can’t win the Cape Epic in the prologue, but it is easy to lose it by a small mistake – or even curtail your own campaign by going too deep.

Cape Epic Stage 1

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

Cape Epic

Stage 1 is a return to the opening stages 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.

Cape Epic Stage 2

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

Cape Epic
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 length of singletrack, cut into the Hottentots Holland Mountains by Wildekrans’ Braam Gericke. This 6 kilometre long climb gains over 500 metres in elevation and has been named the Wildekrans Tokoloshe.

Stage 3

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

Cape Epic
No 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 in 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.  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. The trail home follows the easiest possible route and includes flowing singletrack through cattle filled pastures, not a bad way to end the day.

Cape Epic Stage 4

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

Cape Epic
After three marathon stages the  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. For the fans the time trial provides the perfect vantage point, the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. The route forms an irregular figure of eight and provides spectators with the chance to see their favourite riders at kilometres 6 and 20 without having to move locations.

Cape Epic Stage 5

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

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. The Land Rover Technical Terrain leads 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.

Cape Epic Stage 6

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

Cape Epic
Today is play day, or earn the right to play day; starting 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 day is characterised but sharp climbs and awesome descents – cherry picking the best trails in Stellenbosch. 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.

Cape Epic Stage 7

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

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.

A group of riders during stage 7 of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Huguenot High in Wellington, South Africa on the 24th March 2018
Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

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