Organizers announced the route for the 11th edition of the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, to be held from March 23 to March 30, 2014. Twelve hundred international and local racers will take on a demanding 718km route with 14,850m of climbing in the Western Cape of South Africa.
The route, which changes significantly each year, will cover vast distances of virgin territory, not previously visited by the race. With its challenging and exhilarating landscapes, the stage locations of Robertson, Greyton and Oak Valley Wine Estate await riders before they again finish at the Lourensford Wine Estate as has been tradition since 2007.
"We aim to offer participants from around the world an awesome experience that showcases the best that our beautiful country has to offer," said Kevin Vermaak, founder and director of the Cape Epic:
"We want different routes, with suitable technical and challenging riding, that take the riders to new towns whilst at the same time giving the riders the most beautiful and remote scenery, and with wild animals to boot. Without the incredible support of Cape Nature Conservation, this would not be possible as they give us access to their reserves."
Just finishing the race is a challenge for many participants although top riders battle it out every stage. Many World Cup riders use the early season race for training purposes. Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) won the 2013 edition of the Cape Epic. Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) won the women's category.
Prologue: Meerendal Wine Estate, 23km with 700m of climbing
The 2014 race will start at Meerendal Wine Estate, on the doorstep of Cape Town. Riders will tackle the purpose built network of trails through protected Renosterveld bush. With some surprising new twists there are always the dependable views of Cape Town, Robben Island and Table Mountain to keep the spirits high to finish strong.
Stage 1: Robertson to Robertson, 108km with 2,450m of climbing
Stage 1, referred to as one of the hardest of the race begins at Arabella Wines, just outside the town of Robertson. The stage will begin with a fast section through vineyards, followed by climbing and is certain to test riders' endurance.
Stage 2: Robertson to Robertson, 101km with 1,550m of climbing
This stage will explore the opposite side of the Robertson Wine Valley with some breathtaking riding through the Klein Karoo and northern Riviersonderend Mountains. Once again, the day will start off fast before heading into flowing singletrack before water point 1. This mix of terrain will continue until riders hit Main Road in the charming town of McGregor, where the warm hospitality of the Langeberg Region is sure to lift the spirits. The route will then head deep into the unspoiled expanses of this rugged and striking landscape of sandstone and underlying shale formations. "Neil's Folly" is bound to give riders' legs a beating before returning to the lush Breede River Valley. A short, but steep climb will follow, before rolling into the finish, and the last night at Arabella Wines.
Stage 3: Robertson to Greyton, 134km with 1,800m of climbing
With 134km from start to finish, this will be the longest day of the 2014 race, transitioning from the red dust of the Klein Karoo of Robertson to the lush farmlands of Greyton. This year sees a brand new race village at The Oaks Estate, just outside Greyton.
Stage 4: Greyton to Greyton, 88km with 1,850m of climbing
During stage 4 riders will tackle some rolling hills and district roads while the trails of The Cape Country Meander will offer some twisting and rocky singletrack. The route sees a mix of superb singletrack sections, descending and climbing as well as visiting the historical highlight of the day, the mission town of Genadendal.
Stage 5: Greyton to Elgin, 110km with 2,900m climbing
Known as the queen stage, the most amount of climbing will happen on stage 5. Riders will endure the UFO climb as well as several more short, sharp hills, and near the end, a rugged false flat grind, flanking the majestic and well-known Groenlandberg, before riders will drop down to the familiar race village at Oak Valley Wine Estate.
Stage 6: Elgin to Elgin, 85km with 1,800m of climbing
Stage 6 will be the stage of rewards. With hundreds of kilometers banked, riders will enjoy a sampling of the great singletrack still to come. They will be richly rewarded as they rail the manicured singletrack of Lebanon, Thandi, Paul Cluver and Oak Valley Wine Estate.
Stage 7: Final stage - Elgin to Lourensford Wine Estate, 69km with 1,800m of climbing
The final stage of the 2014 Cape Epic will draw to a close at Lourensford Wine Estate. The first team to the hotspot will earn R10,000 and as for the rest, they will get to enjoy the many vistas of the day, including False Bay and Cape Town where their journey began eight days ago. Some flowing singletrack will offer a final reward, before being reunited with loved ones at Lourensford Wine Estate.
Check out the video preview below for the 2014 Cape Epic.