Several racers shared their opinions about the 2014 Cape Epic route after it was announced earlier this week. Next year, the race will cover 718km, with 14,850m of climbing from March 23 to March 30.
Four-time Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser predicted that the route would suit him, as he is a good all-rounder.
"This will be my 10th Cape Epic. I look forward to Robertson as I have good memories from last year," he said. "I have less fond memories of Greyton as we lost a Cape Epic due to Burry [Stander]'s famous crash there, where we broke the front wheel. I personally was hoping we go back to Wellington and especially Stellenbosch, as it's my second home!"
"Stage 5 will be very difficult as we'll be tired and we have the UFO and Groenlandberg to climb, which are never easy after five days of racing already. We're targeting an overall win, so every stage has the same importance. We always decide what to do in a situation and don't follow a master plan."
Karl Platt, also a four-time Cape Epic winner, reckoned that every year is hard. "We're returning to familiar terrain from past years. Because mountain biking has changed in South Africa, I'm really looking forward to seeing the new style of self-made trails in and around these towns. They are really famous for awesome and breathtaking mountain biking."
With regards to the stages, he thinks they will all be difficult. "The long distance stages are especially difficult to amateurs. One of the key stages will be the stage to Oak Valley with the monster of Groenlandberg. I can remember that terrain very well, maybe because of all the impressions from past years and the pain. Not to sound arrogant, we'll target every stage for a win. It's more about the general classification than the wins though."
He jokingly added that there would be no easy stages during the Cape Epic. "I promise," he said.
South African Darren Lill will be doing his second Cape Epic. "The route looks like it's sure to live up to the Epic reputation! I think stage 5 will be the most challenging. Already having four stages in the legs, and then having to tackle almost 3000m of climbing is going to be tough. You have to give 100% every day to be at the front end of the race, and stand a chance at the overall podium." His approach to the race will be "eat, sleep, train, repeat!"
Stefan Sahm, three-time race winner said, "The profile, facts and figures never show the real pain and suffering that awaits you. It'll be nice to ride through some places we haven't seen in previous years."
With regards to which stage will be the most difficult, Sahm is philosophical. "I guess it's a bit like Russian roulette - there can always be a day when everything is against you. It's not just the route and the terrain."
Swiss rider and two-time winner, once in the ladies and once in the mixed category, Esther Süss is convinced the route will be hard. "I'm not looking forward to stage 3. I'm not so good in flat and fast sections, and I also don't like it. Stage 6 has lots of singletrack, which I love, and I'm also a good climber. We'll do our best for stage wins as long as we have fun. But of course I'd like to win. I enjoy the Cape Epic very much."
2014 will be the second Cape Epic for Cherise Stander, widow of former winner Burry Stander. "I think it's going to be extremely testing. It seems like the 2014 Cape Epic has all the variety to test a rider on every level and that one will have to be prepared for an extremely tough eigh days."
"I think every stage is an opportunity to break away. However, you don't want to find yourself wasting energy riding by yourself when other teams are working together in a bunch. Its a big dream of mine to one day cross the last stage into Lourensford in first place - the vibe on the finish line is magical and I would love to be able to win that stage."
Team Absa rider William Mokgopo, with two Cape Epic finishes under his belt, said riders would need to prepare well. "I don't know why I'm doing this again. There are no easy stages - even the so-called 'easy' stages are hard. But, I really look forward to stage 5, the queen stage, as I'm a good climber."
He jokingly adds they might even go for a win in the stage. "During both stages 1 and 5, we'll see the super humans break away from the normal ones and climbing is always the best place to do that. It seems like it's going to be a hard one, but it's always a great experience. I can't wait to start."
South African rugby legend, Joel Stransky, will again be riding for Team Absa and said, "The route looks tough, but it looks fair! Some really tough days, a long day and some incredible singletrack. Everything one would expect from Dr Evil and the team! The real change I suppose is that the 'sting in the tail' does come toward the end. Stage 5 looks very tough, stage 6 relatively tough and we know that the last day home is short but properly tough at the end of eight days!" This will be Stransky's fifth Cape Epic.
"I don't mind the climbing, and over the years I've learned to suffer, so I am looking forward to the challenge of stages 1 and 5. But the last five kilometers down to Lourensford definitely suit me best. Every year is the same - when I see the route for the first time, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. One of life's great challenges is right there in front of me - the journey to the start line and the Cape Epic itself. I can't wait!"
The following video, from race organizers, details the 2014 Cape Epic route.