Old favourites and familiar venues provide warm Western Cape hospitality for the seventeenth Absa Cape Epic. In March 2020, the race that measures it all will visit Cape Town, Ceres, Tulbagh, Wellington and Val de Vie.
The Absa Cape Epic route, which is proudly presented by Land Rover, may be king – but the towns it visits are its queens. Each are pictures of South Africa’s famous hospitality. Local and international riders alike will be treated to eight days of warm welcomes and friendly smiles as they experience the Western Cape’s diverse landscapes, architecture and cultures.
Distinctly African, South African and simultaneously cosmopolitan Cape Town provides Absa Cape Epic riders with the first glimpses of what the race holds in store. For those staying in one of the Mother City’s Tsogo Sun Hotels, the eclectic city centre offers rest and relaxation away from the impending stress of the race. In a city built as the port where Europe meets Asia and Africa, the eastern and western influences merge, from architecture to cuisine the city draws inspiration from its diverse heritage. Riders should experience the sweet spice of Cape Malay cooking, take in an open top bus sight seeing tour and of course pre-ride the Prologue route ahead of the race start on Sunday, 15 March.
Leaving the ivy-covered walls of the University of Cape Town behind, riders transfer from the city to the province’s rural heartland ahead of Stage 1. For the first time in a decade Ceres plays host to an Absa Cape Epic race village. The town’s high and primary schools welcome riders to the fertile valley, which is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture. 2010 was the event’s last stay in Ceres, though whistle stops through the surrounding area’s trails have been made in the long years since. A desire to fully explore the region’s rugged riding options necessitated a two-night stay.
From Ceres, the race’s first moving day traverses two mountain ranges, heading north-west to Tulbagh. Saronsberg, a modern gem in South Africa’s fourth oldest town, provides the second race village and another two-night stay. The town’s Cape Dutch architecture is among the best-maintained examples of this local fusion of European style and African functionality in the Western Cape. Church Street provides a number of iconic 300-year-old illustrations of the style, and what is sure to be a fiercely contested Dimension Data Hotspot sprint.
Saronsberg, located just outside of town, has an interesting tie to the Absa Cape Epic. The farm’s first harvest was being picked from its now award-winning vines at the same time as the first edition of the Untamed African Mountain Bike race was starting in Knysna. In the seventeen years since, both the farm and the Race have grown in international acclaim, but remain true to their African roots.
The second moving day takes the race from Saronsberg to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Wellington campus, for the final three nights. Last visited in 2018, the region is well-loved by mountain bikers, though that love is tinged with a little apprehension. Wellington boasts purpose-built mountain biking trails aplenty, but also viciously steep vineyard climbs; there are no easy kilometres to be found there. Alongside the town’s brandy and whisky distilleries and a number of internationally renowned wineries, many of which the route traverses, the town also has a large private game reserve. Arc en Ciel Game provides the route highlight on the race’s penultimate day.
Located in Paarl, Val de Vie is the Champs-Élysées of mountain biking for the fourth time. However, the trail to the valley of life is no processional stage. There are mountains, complete with a Dimension Data Hotspot, and a final Land Rover Technical Terrain segment to be conquered first. Once on the estate’s beautifully manicured grounds, riders will have perhaps the first opportunity of the race to relax and take in the sweeping emotions of completing the Absa Cape Epic.
Taking a moment to compose oneself before rounding the final bend is a wise plan. For the cacophony of noise which awaits on Val de Vie’s polo fields can be overwhelming to physically and emotionally exhausted riders. Absa’s VIP hospitality area lines the finish line on one side, while grandstands filled with riders’ cheering friends and family members lines the other. Riding up through this tunnel of noise, each finisher will know that they have earned their spot in the Book of Legend and there is no finer location to receive an Absa Cape Epic finisher medal.
Crossing the finish line of The Race That Measures All will take guts, determination, fitness, and a combination of luck and skill. Each morning, afternoon and evening the on-the-bike exertions will be countered by the warm hospitality of the Western Cape. While the region’s inhabitants cannot help the riders pedal their way through the 647 kilometres, they can fuel and encourage them for every pedal stroke of the way.