The 2010 Absa Cape Epic

It is that time of the year again for world famous Cape Epic Mountain Bike Challenge the Absa Cape Epic 2010 starts tomorrow and ends at Lourensford 8 days from then. The gruelling course covers 641 km climbing the Capes toughest mountains. The Cape Epic attracts entries from all over the world and has the reputation of the world toughest mountain bike competition.

Here are the stages that the cyclists will be covering:

Stage 1:

Date: 21 March 2010
Start/Finish: Diemersfontein to CeresDistance: 117km Climbing: 2190m
Stage 1 will see riders leave the charming Diemersfontein Wine Estate in the heart of the Wellington wine region. Riders will face a rude awakening of their legs with some immediate steep climbs, leading them to forest single track and more steep climbing on dirt tracks taking the race up to the tarred road of Bainskloof pass. The smooth tar descent is well-known for its tight turns and riders need to stay alert heading down into the windswept farmlands. Next up is a 5km climb on smooth dirt tracks through Kluytjieskraal. Over the other side, they will find themselves surrounded by mountains, with no sign of civilization, followed by a short rocky climb taking them back over the mountain ridge. The descent offers fantastic vistas over the Tulbagh and Wolsley valley which riders will soon traverse to reach the final stretch, the gruelling sting in the tail – a 12km long railway line section over iron sleepers and sharp stones into Ceres.

Stage 2:

Date: 22 March 2010
Start/Finish: CeresDistance: 90km Climbing: 1625m
For 3 nights, the race settles in Ceres – a paradise for mountain bikers! Today will see a staggered start, and the short but steep and rocky climbs early in the race will split the field further apart before reaching Eselfontein, an area renowned for its abundance of singletrack. The 3 loops on this stage all have their own characteristics, beginning with a relatively gentle warm up climb on single track followed by a sweeping descent to the first water point. What follows is a tough climb, much of it on single track, but the long descend on flowing single track interspersed with sharp rocks and tight turns is fair payment for the climbing effort. After water point 2 riders hit some smooth forest single track followed by some gentle climbing up to the dams, which will be inviting on a hot summer day. But don’t be fooled, although the final kilometres look flat, following farm paths, they are not fast.

Stage 3:

Date: 23 March 2010
Start/Finish: CeresDistance: 115km Climbing: 2280m
Riders get to warm up on undulating terrain before facing the major obstacle of the day and perhaps of the whole race, this high mountain and the radical descent will determine Stage 3. It appears in two parts of which the first follows a wagon trail at a 12% gradient, built over a hundred years ago and becoming continuously more rugged as the climb goes on. A short flat section follows allowing for some recovery, and giving riders a view of the peak high above which will soon be referred to as Mount Evilrest. The surface to the summit is smooth but the gradients reach 25%. Up on top riders will get rewarded with 360 degree views before plunging into the long and technical descend over big boulders and washouts deep enough to swallow both rider and bike! This is truly rugged but fun mountain biking terrain and slower riders will take a good hour before some temporary relief awaits them on the flat, gravel roads to the last water point and before the Gouda Pass descent. Although from here one can see Ceres at the bottom of the valley – the flat stretch back into town seems to go on forever. This could be the epic day of all epic days.

Stage 4:

Date: 24 March 2010
Start/Finish: Ceres to WorcesterDistance: 86kmClimbing: 1640m
The first 35km will be relatively flat, easy-going farm roads past local wineries like Waverley Hills and Mountain Ridge, but then comes a long zig-zagging of rustic dual and singletrack up and down the foothills of the mountains, before finally climbing up into the saddle only to see another descent and saddle ahead. From there riders are rewarded with views into the Breede River Valley – their home for the next two nights. But even with home in their sights, riders still have the rough 2km Boesmanberg climb to scale, before a fast descent into Worcester.This is a relatively easy stage, even though it might not feel like it after the combination punches of stages 1, 2 and 3.

Stage 5:

Date: 25 March 2010
Start/Finish: WorcesterDistance: 27km Climbing: 860m
Stage 5 takes the form of a time trial. Teams will set off in 30 second intervals, in reverse order to their ranking in the GC. The route forms a figure of 8 through the foothills of Brandwacht, taking the race along the western side of Worcester through semi-desert vegetation. Eight hundred and sixty meters of climbing is a great deal on any day out on a mountain bike, but over only 27km it will be extremely demanding. However, the relatively short time spend in the saddle today, will give riders a chance to recover and prepare for what is yet to come.Profile coming soon

Stage 6:

Date: 26 March 2010
Start/Finish: Worcester to Oak ValleyDistance: 123km Climbing: 2240m
Riders will leave Worcester in a neutral convoy. Soon they will be hugging the shores of the Brandvlei Dam before retracing some of the 2009 route in reverse. But what riders will have remembered as a primarily uphill section, somehow still feels like an uphill, even if ridden in reverse. The climbs are short but the gradients reach 26%. In the distance, riders will head towards the radio mast far away on top of a hill to be reached via a bumpy cow field. A dead-straight chute takes the field down to the canals, through the orchards, into some singletrack and then over the wall of the vast Theewaterskloof Dam.The race then takes a short cut through a hidden valley to Porcupine Hills before reaching the foot of another monument of the Absa Cape Epic - the Cape Nature Conservation area Groenlandberg. Route designer Leon Evans (aka Dr Evil) has found a new way for riders to conquer this beautiful beast. Part 1 follows a steep dirt road, but at the end of it the elusive crest still lies on the horizon. The second part takes riders into virgin Epic mountain biking territory and deep into nature. The going is tough and slow on rugged, washed out and in parts sandy, lumpy tracks. The gradient may flatten out but the effort is intensified. From the saddle the views open onto Elgin Valley – renowned for its superb mountain biking trails. Riders face a fast descent and will be rewarded for a tough day in the saddle with fun smooth flowing singletrack in Thandi and Oak Valley, but it’s not all downhill to the finish of what is probably the hardest day in this year’s Absa Cape Epic.

Stage 7:

Date: 27 March 2010
Start/Finish: Oak Valley to Oak ValleyDistance: 99kmClimbing: 2160m
The short sharp hills early on in the stage will burn the legs with five minutes up and 15 seconds down making riders work hard before the long descend past Houwhoek Inn into Botriver, followed by some fast gravel roads through the farmland. The main obstacle of the day is the climb up to the Lebanon Highlands Plantation. It kicks off with a very loose and steep section which has earned itself the name "The Beeatch" - think sand, heat and suffering…But soon the surface becomes rideable and riders will settle into the steady climb. Even though it is not long in kilometers, it will take even the front pack more than half an hour to master. After having reached the top the track contours along the side of the mountain over to Houteq, looking onto the apple plantations far below with the majestic Hottentots Holland mountains as the backdrop, which riders will head towards on the following day. From Houteq it is singletrack time, heading into Lebanon for some of the most coveted trails in the Cape. More short, steep climbs stand in the way of a final stretch of swooping paths taking riders to their final night on tour.

Stage 8:

Date: 28 March 2010
Start/Finish: Oak Valley to Lourensford, Somerset West Distance: 65km Climbing: 1640m
As is tradition, the last stage is always the shortest, but never easy. When riders see vineyards, they will know it is all about short, sharp climbs before some longer and even steeper ones though Nuweberg up to see the superb vistas of Elgin/Grabouw and back onto Theewaterskloof Dam. In 2010 the Absa Cape Epic takes a new route into the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, on Buysepad, and down the compulsory portage section and National Heritage site, Gantouw Pass. A close look at the path will reveal Voortrekker wagons tracks, heading down to the railway line. Through wine country, riders then have Lourensford in their sights, their eyes trained on the finish. Waiting for them are their loved ones, their finisher’s medal, and a heroes’ welcome.

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