The start of the Cape Epic is just around the corner, on Saturday, March 21. Now in its sixth year, the race will begin with a prologue on the slopes of Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa, and will finish eight days and 685km later at the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.
1,200 athletes from 46 countries will participate in the African stage race, the only stage race categorized as hors categorie or "HC" by the UCI. Mountain bikers are coming all the way from nations like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Sweden and Venezuela to earn points and have an epic race experience. Throughout the week, the 600 two-person teams will climb 14,663 meters, the equivalent of two trips up Mount Everest.
Returning for the 2009 edition is a team time trial prologue of 16.5km on the slopes of the designated world heritage, site Table Mountain. Teams will depart at 30-second intervals and race against the clock to determine their start seeding for stage one, which begins in Gordon Bay the following day.
Fires raged across Table Mountain earlier this week and forced the cancellation of practice sessions on Thursday; however, practice sessions on Friday and the prologue itself on Saturday will continue as scheduled.
In 2006, the Cape Epic became the first ever team mountain bike stage race at which UCI points were awarded. The race's HC designation draws some of the sport's top racers, including World cross country champion Christoph Sauser, Olympic gold medallist Bart Brentjens, Olympic silver medallist Jose Hermida as well as the 2007 Cape Epic winners and runners up in 2008, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm. The race will also see Under 23 UCI World Cup winner Burry Stander, Kevin Evans, and David George showcasing some of South Africa's best talents. Multiple-time World Champion and World Cup winner Alison Sydor is also expected to return.
The racers will team up to form duo men's, women's, mixed and masters teams.
The Cape Epic is a massive logistics project with organizers pitching over 1,400 tents per day and transporting 275 tons of equipment from stage town to stage town. Twenty-seven heavy-duty trucks and transporters and over 700 crew, volunteers and supplier representatives are involved in implementing the largest mountain bike stage race in the world.