The countdown is on. The Absa Cape Epic, now in its eighth year, will kick off on Sunday, March 27 with a prologue at Tokai Forest in the city of Cape Town. It will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West on Sunday, April 3.
The Cape Epic is a UCI category HC stage race and the most televised mountain bike race of all time. 1200 athletes from 54 countries will line up at the start. Mountain bikers are coming from around the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Finland, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Venezuela.
A new route is designed each year and the race is entirely off-road. Within eight days, 600 two-person-teams will race 707 gruelling kilometers and climb 14,550 vertical metres on their bikes, which is nearly the equivalent of riding twice up Mount Everest. To deserve the honourable "Absa Cape Epic Finisher" title, the participants have to complete the prologue and all seven stages. The 2011 race will see once again a 32km time trial stage on day four in Worcester.
In 2006, the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas became the first-ever team mountain bike stage race at which UCI points were awarded. The 2011 race is one of only two mountain bike stage races to be classified HC (hors categorie) by the UCI.
Thus, the entrants include some of the best cross country and marathon riders in the world like the reigning cross country world champion José Antonio Hemida, the 2008 cross country world champion Christoph Sauser, the 2006 World Marathon Champion Ralph Näf), Olympic gold medalist Bart Brentjens, the reigning under 23 cross country world champion Mathias Flückiger, the two-time European Marathon Champion Thomas Dietsch, as well as the defending Cape Epic Champions Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, who won three times as a team.
The 2011 race also sees 2009 under 23 UCI World Champion Burry Stander, 2010 World Cup Houffalize winner Eva Lechner and the 2008 under 23 European Champion Nathalie Schneitter, South Africa's most successful Cape Epic participant to date Kevin Evans, three-time Giro del Capo winner David George, African mountain biking legend Mannie Heymans and 20-time stage winner Shan Wilson.
The Cape Epic is a massive logistics project. The organizers pitch over 1,400 tents per day and transport 280 tons of equipment from stage town to stage town. Twenty-seven heavy-duty trucks and transporters and over 790 crew, volunteers and supplier representatives are involved in implementing the largest mountain bike stage race in the world.