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South Africa's Cape Epic
By Carrie Ade
For the second year in a row we find our selves in the mountains of South Africa’s Western Cape. A near year of training in the legs, the blurred memory of a thousand hours on the bike, the acceptance of a giant hole in the bank account, all in pursuit of challenge, adventure, experience and achievement. The Cape Epic fulfils these aspirations.
Eight days covering approximately 800 kilometres through the mountainous regions of outlying Cape Town, the Cape Epic is a pinnacle event in mountain bike stage racing. It is a worthy challenge for those seeking adventure on their bike and to truly test their limits of endurance. It is tough as it is scenically rewarding as the route takes the riders up, over, and through some of the most magnificent mountain passes in South Africa. Testing ones spirit of strength and determination with it varied and demanding terrain, integrating open gravel roads, steep rocky climbs, sand and more sand, exhilarating descents, and challenging single track.
Since its start in 2004 the race has been a sell out, now accommodating 600 teams of two an entry remains hard to come by. There are, however, several avenues for international riders to get into the event. At midnight the day following the finish of the race 100 instant spots open up for those who are ready to commit and pay the 32,000 ZAR up front (about 6,000 NZ dollars). There is also a lottery which can be entered for a none refundable fee, and for those who are very keen to see what the race is like up close before taking the plunge, the organisers offer a limited number of volunteer slots reward of which is a guaranteed entry into the next years race, however full payment of the race fee is still required!
Being the first team mountain bike stage race where UCI points were awarded, it has made its report and the competition is becoming increasingly fierce as the race attracts some of the worlds top professional and amateur cross country riders. The popularity of the race continues to grow despite its limited entry slots. The Cape Epic is indeed a very large race. It is in fact the largest full service mountain bike stage race in the world, making for a very large production.
The entire race village is erected and dissembled at each stage location. The riders arrive each day on the finish line to their tent set up, dining hall, food stalls, shops, internet cafes, bike mechanics, available massage services, and a portable hospital. The Rider’s gear is transported between the race villages and the routes are supplied with water and nutrition stops equipped with mechanics and medical aid.
The Cape Epic is one of many stage races in South Africa, but it is the largest, and due to its level of organisation it has huge appeal. This also makes it the most expensive and they knock you up for extras wherever they can. So if you are interested in missioning to an untamed land and putting your hard hours on the bike to the test, but uneasy about the cost, it would pay to do some research into some of the other events open to international riders, such as the Sani2c, the Sabie experience, the Cape Pioneer, and more which take place each year throughout South Africa. The races are all very varied in distance, format, and price, but offer an equally incredible experience in an amazing country, which possesses many wild, exciting, and potentially dangerous elements! Your bike can bring you to some of the world’s most incredible places.
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