Mar 13, 2023 Canyon.com
Mar 13, 2023 Canyon.com

From Canyon to Cape: everything you need to know about Cape Epic 2023

The word epic is certainly overused in cycling but there’s one event for which is totally deserved. Enter: Absa Cape Epic 2023.

From Canyon to Cape: everything you need to know about Cape Epic 2023 From Canyon to Cape: everything you need to know about Cape Epic 2023

The 2023 Absa Cape Epic is the annual showcase of MTB Marathon. All eyes turn to the wilds of South Africa where herds of riders gather on the trails around Cape Town for 7 stages (plus a prologue) of elbows out mountain bike racing.

How long is Absa Cape Epic?

Dubbed the Tour de France of mountain biking,2023 edition has total riding distance of 658 km and total elevation of 15,775 m. The route changes every year but it is usually around 700 km long.

From Canyon to Cape: everything you need to know about Cape Epic 2023 ABSA Cape Epic

2023 Absa Cape Epic key stats and information

Dates: 19-26 March 2023
Total distance: 658 km
Total elevation: 15,775 m

Absa Cape Epic is the world’s biggest MTB stage race. The route changes every year but it’s general around 700 km and 17,000 m of climbing. Competitors ride in teams of 2 and both riders must finish in order to compete in the general classification.

Unlike a lot of ultra-distance and bikepacking races where self-sufficiency is the name of the game, Cape Epic operates in a semi-supported way. Teams must fix their own mechanicals while out on the course, however when they return to the race village, they’re greeted with a number of stations:

• Accommodation
• Meals (breakfast, recovery and dinner each day)
• Bag transfers between stages
• Medical support
• Bike washes
• WiFi
• Finisher t-shirts and medals

The race organisers also have water points throughout each stage for refills during typically hot weather. Riders can also pick up a snack or two to keep their energy levels high mid-race.

History of Cape Epic

Kevin Vermaak founded Cape Epic back in 2004 having experienced a similar style event in Costa Rica. In many ways, Cape Epic not only capitalised on the MTB boom of the early 2000s but it also helped grow the Marathon discipline into what it is today.

In the years since its inception, only one edition has been cancelled. In 2020, the global pandemic struck the world and forced organisers to endure a fallow year. In 2021, continuing travel restrictions around the world meant only 600 participants appeared at the start line.

The longest edition of the race was in 2008 when competitors had to endure 966 km with over 18,500 m of elevation. Despite the length, the amount of climbing per kilometre was one of the lowest in the race’s history. The edition with the highest amount of climbing per kilometre was the 2019 edition which provided wannabe mountain goats with a mighty 26.7m of elevation per kilometre. The 2023 race is up there with the punchiest packing in 24m of elevation per kilometre.

Year Total distance Total elevation Riders
2004 788 km 17,380 m 550
2005 898 km 16,020 m 840
2006 940 km 16,605 m 1040
2007 886 km 15,045 1200
2008 966 km 18,529 m 1200
2009 744 km 15,132 m 1200
2010 661 km 14,126 m 1200
2011 708 km 14,550 m 1200
2012 775 km 16,300 m 1200
2013 706 km 15,950 m 1258
2014 729 km 14,850 m 1234
2015 748 km 16,000 m 1244
2016 654 km 15,000 m 1292
2017 651 km 15,000 m 1332
2018 657 km 13,530 m 1344
2019 624 km 16,650 m 1380
2020
2021 620 km 15,350 m 600
2022 681 km 16,900 m 1000

What’s the longest stage of Cape Epic?

In 2023 edition, the longest stage is stage 2 “Where the winds blow” with total of 116 km. Want to know more about this stage and the others? Keep reading to find out just how challenging Cape Epic really is.

The 2023 Absa Cape Epic route

Cape Epic is made up of a prologue followed by 7 stages.



Cape Epic Prologue | “A view to thrill”

Sunday 19 March
Distance: 27 km
Climbing: 750 m
Start: Meerendal Wine Estate
Finish: Meerendal Wine Estate

As an 8-time host of Cape Epic, the Meerendal Wine Estate is no stranger to world-class athletes racing through their world-class trails. With a backdrop of Table Mountain, the first stage will be unmissable.

Cape Epic Prologue | “A view to thrill” Cape Epic Prologue | “A view to thrill”
Cape Epic: Stage 1 | “Purgatory”

Monday 20 March
Distance: 98 km
Climbing: 2550 m
Start: Hermanus
Finish: Hermanus

The Hemel en Aarde Valley is a mountain biking paradise in the Overberg region of South Africa. Expect riders to be putting their bikes and skills to the test in this punchy opening stage. As many of the trails are limestone, this could be a particularly slippy stage if there’s rain.

Cape Epic: Stage 1 | “Purgatory” Cape Epic: Stage 1 | “Purgatory”
Cape Epic: Stage 2 | “Where the winds blow”

Tuesday 21 March
Distance: 116 km
Climbing: 1850 m
Start: Hermanus
Finish: Hermanus

As the stage with the lowest climbing to distance ratio (15.9 m per kilometre for the nerds out there), you’d be naïve to think Stage 2 will be more chilled out than the other stages. The opening and closing 35 km of the race are relatively flat but don’t be fooled. The lion’s share of climbing occurs in the middle 46 km making it a challenging stage with the midday heat likely to play a part in the teams’ successes.

Cape Epic: Stage 2 | “Where the winds blow” Cape Epic: Stage 2 | “Where the winds blow”
Cape Epic: Stage 3 | “New frontiers”

Wednesday 22 March
Distance: 108 km
Climbing: 2600 m
Start: Hermanus
Finish: Oak Valley Estate

Stage 3 has the most climbing of all the stages and it’s the first of the transition stages. A steep climb begins the race and will sort the haves from the have nots for the day ahead. Some tight, technical trails will torment riders looking to break away ahead of a monstrous climb up to the Elgin plateau. A short descent down to the finish line will be a welcome break at the end of a long day.

Cape Epic: Stage 3 | “New frontiers” Cape Epic: Stage 3 | “New frontiers”
Cape Epic: Stage 4 | “Captives of chronos”

Thursday 23 March
Distance: 47 km
Climbing: 875 m
Start: Oak Valley Estate
Finish: Oak Valley Estate

This stage is for the time triallists with a penchant for steep climbs. It’ll be non-stop as riders attempt to pace themselves on such a short course, while maintaining energy levels for the technical singletrack that requires focus. One false move could cost the stage, so it’s all to race for as we go into the second half of the event.

Cape Epic: Stage 4 | “Captives of chronos” Cape Epic: Stage 4 | “Captives of chronos”
Cape Epic: Stage 5 | “The emerald queen”

Friday 24 March
Distance: 102 km
Climbing: 2450 m
Start: Oak Valley Estate
Finish: Lourensford Wine Estate

Having spent two days in the shadows of Groenlandberg on the outskirts of the Oak Valley Estate, it’s time for riders to face the demon head on. As the queen stage of the race, organisers didn’t hold back when they planned this route. A long climb to Tierkop is just the first of riders’ worries as a short descent follows before the Green Mountain itself. Stage 5 is for the climbers and we’re excited to see the leaderboard at the end of the day.

Cape Epic: Stage 5 | “The emerald queen” Cape Epic: Stage 5 | “The emerald queen”
Cape Epic: Stage 6 | “The spear”

Saturday 25 March
Distance: 82 km
Climbing: 2300 m
Start: Lourensford Wine Estate
Finish: Lourensford Wine Estate

Within the boundaries of the Lourensford Wine Estate lay treasure in the form of some of South Africa’s older MTB trails. The route profile is akin to a shark’s teeth with 4 mighty mountains to overcome before a sweet descent to finish the day. If you’re planning to watch the race trailside, this is the stage for you. You’ll see riders criss-crossing around the Estate multiple times and you can catch what you can’t see in the chill zone.

Cape Epic: Stage 6 | “The spear” Cape Epic: Stage 6 | “The spear”
Cape Epic: Stage 7 | “The trail to Val de Vie”

Sunday 26 March
Distance: 78 km
Climbing: 2400 m
Start: Lourensford Wine Estate
Finish: Val de Vie Estate

This stage is for the time triallists with a penchant for steep climbs. It’ll be non-stop as riders attempt to pace themselves on such a short course, while maintaining energy levels for the technical singletrack that requires focus. One false move could cost the stage, so it’s all to race for as we go into the second half of the event.

Cape Epic: Stage 7 | “The trail to Val de Vie” Cape Epic: Stage 7 | “The trail to Val de Vie”

Where to watch Absa Cape Epic 2023

Absa Cape Epic is live streamed online throughout the event. Tune in via the event Facebook page, YouTube channel or the Epic Series App.

If you’re fortunate to live close to the event or you’re making a special trip to see it, look out for spectator points along the route of each stage. You can find out the exact coordinates on the race event website.

Are there any Canyon riders at Absa Cape Epic 2023?

We’re super stoked for this year’s event, especially since Canyon Northwave riders Andreas Seewald and Martin Stožek are teaming up to take on the race this year. We sat down with them for a few minutes between training sessions to find out how they’re going.

How’s your preparation going for Cape Epic 2023?

A: My preparation for Cape Epic 2023 hasn’t gone completely smoothly due to being ill twice this winter. But at our preparation race “Mediterranean Epic”, I eventually became stage winner and third place before I got sick again and just rode the last stage to finish the race. The training camp after that went well and my coach said my form will come, so let’s see.

M: Preparation is going well. I had a similar winter preparation like last year so I think it will work for me. We also spent some time with Andreas and did some riding together. After the first races we did in Spain in February it looks that preparation was good.

What learnings from previous editions of the race will you apply to the 2023 race?

A: I learned that staying calm and recovering as much as possible between the stages is the key to success. If the form is there, I’ll leave the rest to fate.

M: We learned that consistency is the key in such a long and challenging race as Cape Epic is. We always try to concentrate on every single stage and don't think too much in front. Very important is also to stay safe on the bike and try to avoid stupid mechanical troubles or crashes.

Which stage(s) are you looking forward to most and why?

A: I don’t know the stages very well because they change every year. I can only place my bets on the stages with the longest climbs since that’s how Martin and I were able to break away from the peloton last year.

M: I don't know much about how the stages look but from the paper I would say that stage 3 can be good for us because of the climbing. I also think that the last stage will be quite hard, so there is enough space to fight to the very end.

What does the rest of your season look like?

A: The rest of the season is heavily focused on the World Championships, European Championships and National (German) Championships, where I hope to come away with another title. Then there are the four Marathon world cups and my personal goal of taking part in Leadville 100 in the USA. Apart from that, a few more Marathon races such as Hero Dolomites, Dolomiti Superbike and Bikefestival Riva.

M: The main goals of the season are similar to the last one. I really look forward to the World Cup races which will be very important for our team. Like last year, we really want to success at the Cape Epic, National Champs, Europeans and of course World Championship.

Cape Epic bike check: Canyon Lux World Cup

Both Andreas and Martin will ride the Canyon Lux World Cup for the duration of Absa Cape Epic. As a lightweight, full-suspension, cross-country mountain bike, it has a golden reputation in XCO and Marathon racing.

Setup highlights include:

• 30mm DT Swiss wheels with 2.35 inch Schwalbe Racing Ray (front) and Schwalbe Racing Ralph (rear) tyres with 16 psi and 18 psi respectively.

• Shimano XTR groupset with 36T chainring and 10-51T cassette.

• DT Swiss 60 mm dropper post

• Ergon grips and saddle

• SRM PM9 powermeter

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