CAPE TOWN, 14 February 2023 – Thirty days – that’s all that remains before the start of the most famous mountain bike stage race in the world, the iconic Absa Cape Epic.
On 19 March, mountain biking’s superstars will line up alongside aspirant amateurs to tackle the trek across 658km of wondrous untamed terrain and almost 16 000m of climbing, cementing the hors catégorie-classified race as one of the major highlights on the international calendar.
The 2023 route promises to be among the most breathtaking yet.
For professionals, it provides opportunities to attack, test their rivals’ mettle and fight back, while for the amateurs from countries far and wide, expanded categories provide even more reasons to race.
As ever, a galaxy of stars will also be joining the field.
Australia’s former road cycling champions Mitchell Docker and Lachlan Morton, former Tour de France stage winner Dave Millar, his sister and Belstaff CEO Fran Millar, Grand Tour legend Vincenzo Nibali, former Dutch road giant Niki Terpstra and Spanish football icon Luis Enrique are just some of the big names lighting up the Epic, where fans can sit comfortably at the famous wineries overlooking the singletracks to enjoy the action.
Riders will start with a short and sharp Prologue (19 March) on the trails of Meerendal Wine Estate, before heading southeast to Hermanus, where the town hosts the race for two stages (20 and 21 March). From Hermanus, the first transition stage of 2023 (22 March) pits teams against a traverse inland to Oak Valley Estate, where a mid-week time trial awaits on the trails of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver (23 March).
Once completed, Stage 5, the Queen Stage (24 March), guards passage to Lourensford Wine Estate where Stage 6 (25 March) stands ready. From there, all that lies between teams and their spot in The Book of Legend is The Trail (26 March) to Val de Vie.
Among the big names challenging for the title are last year’s winners, Speed Company Racing’s Georg Egger and Lukas Baum, the darkhorse debutants who stunned all and sundry to take the championship.
It will be a different story this year when everyone will be looking to topple the reigning kings of the Epic.
At the head of the chasing pack will be SCOTT-SRAM Racing, who would love nothing more than to remove the No 1 boards from Egger and Baum’s bikes come 26 March.
SCOTT-SRAM’s two-time Absa Cape Epic winner Nino Schurter will hope to make it a triumphant return to Hermanus, which has proved a happy hunting ground for the world’s greatest mountain biker. On this occasion, he has teamed up with Andri Frischknecht as he hunts glory once more.
The Absa Cape Epic has always been renowned for innovation, and this year sees one of its greatest.
The addition of an Exxaro Women’s Jersey from 2023 is a strong statement of the event’s intentions to bring more black women into mountain biking.
Since its inception in 2012, the Exxaro Jersey has given more than 100 young, black and historically disadvantaged South African riders a goal to aim for. But competing in an expensive sport and entering the world’s most high-profile stage race are a world away for most disadvantaged black South African females under the age of 26. The Exxaro Jersey for women at the Absa Cape Epic aims to change that.
“It was a natural progression to introduce an Exxaro Jersey for women, thereby encouraging and motivating more historically disadvantaged South African women to get involved,” says Marc Erasmus, Absa Cape Epic Partnership Manager.
It is this level of commitment that has seen the race grow from its humble roots in the Cape Winelands in 2004 to a full international series of events in Croatia, Australia, Switzerland and the Pyrenees.
But to every rider and fan, it is the Absa Cape Epic that remains the pinnacle, and so it will be again in 2023.
The Absa Cape Epic is the world’s premier mountain bike stage race. The route changes every year, leading aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through roughly 700km of unspoilt scenery and 15 000m of accumulated climbing, over some of the most magnificent mountain passes in Western Cape in South Africa.
The race attracts professional and serious amateur riders from across the planet that participate in two-person teams. It’s a test of skill, fitness, partnership, equipment and mettle and provides a rider experience that is a benchmark for world mountain biking.
The Absa Cape Epic is a full-service race, meaning that everything is taken care of from the start – all riders need to think about is riding. It is the pinnacle event of the Epic Series which is a global portfolio of best-in-class mountain bike stage races.
The Epic Series is a global portfolio of the most exhilarating, rewarding, and spectacular 2-person team MTB stage races on the planet. Riders challenge themselves on world-famous trails, discover hidden gems and share a premium riding experience with some of the biggest names in the sport, all while surrounded by iconic landscapes.
Selected races function as qualifier events and grant access to the ultimate proving ground of man and machine: Africa, and the pinnacle event of the Epic Series, The Absa Cape Epic.
The Epic Series Races include:
The Absa Cape Epic (RSA); The SPAR Swiss Epic (SUI); The 4Islands MTB Croatia (CRO); Andorra Epic (Andorra), Port to Port and Cape to Cape (AUS); and FNB Wines2Whales (RSA).