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Racers roll out for the start of Cape Epic stage 5
Two riders out of race due to doping
Just ahead of the start of the 2014 edition, organizers announced that the 2015 Cape Epic will start a week earlier than scheduled after negotiations with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
The Epic will take place from March 15 to 22, 2015. As originally scheduled, it would have clashed with the opening UCI cross country World Cup event, in the Oceania region.
To accommodate the Epic and to give the top professionals an opportunity to recover from the South African event, the UCI also adjusted its calendar - shifting the World Cup event back by a week to April 4.
UCI Off-Road Manager Peter Van den Abeele said his organisation structured its international calendar to take into account other key events. "Of course the UCI World Cup is important, but we have other important events on the calendar that need to be well integrated in order to make it balanced for the riders, teams and national federations," he said.
Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak said, "It's great news and we are very grateful. The Epic was the first ever mountain bike stage race to be granted UCI hors catégorie (beyond categorisation) status, and we have had excellent co-operation with them over the years."
Traditionally, cross country events take about 90 minutes to complete, whereas the Epic consists of a prologue and seven marathon stages - most of more than 100km. The World Cup series consists of seven cross-country events around the world.
Two riders out of race due to doping
Two South African mountain bikers are out of the Cape Epic after failing anti-doping tests. One of the riders has been provisionally suspended by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) and in the meantime is not eligible to take part in any races sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) - including the Cape Epic. His case is currently being reviewed by SAIDS.
SAIDS confirmed this week that the second rider was given a three-month suspension for what Cycling South Africa described last year as an "adverse analytical finding in an in-competition test" in May 2013.
SAIDS has not yet released the names of the riders, but neither of them are professionals.
Last year the Cape Epic became the first race in world cycling to apply a "zero tolerance" approach to doping by imposing a life ban on any rider found guilty of illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. The ban applies to riders who have been sanctioned for an offence taking place after January 1, 2013.
Both riders have been notified by the Cape Epic that they will not be allowed to take up their 2014 Cape Epic entries.
"I don't care whether a rider has been banned for three months or three years, if you cheat then we don't have time for you - even if you are not earning a living from cycling, as is the case with these riders," said Vermaak. "This is a new era in cycling, things are changing and I don't want to entertain anybody who still feels the need to dope."
When the Epic's "zero tolerance" approach was announced in December 2012, Vermaak explained that: "We've chosen not to apply this retrospectively because we believe that would be naive. Cycling has a dark past. Many riders from this previous era have rediscovered the joy of cycling as mountain bikers and participate in the Cape Epic as their expression of riding clean.
"Previous offenders, who have served their suspension term, may ride future Cape Epics. We want to be part of the new era of cleaner cycling, and therefore only future offenders will receive the lifetime bans," he said at the time.