Details released on 2012 Cape Epic stages

Still smiling after another tough day during stage 2 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race.

Still smiling after another tough day during stage 2 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. (Image credit: Photo by Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/Sportzpics)

Absa Cape Epic organizers issued a detailed, stage by stage description of the ninth edition of the race coming up on March 25 to April 1, 2012. In total, the race will cover 780km and include 16,300m of climbing in one prologue and seven stages from Durbanville to Lourenford Wine Estate.

"The Absa Cape Epic has again selected some of the best terrain that the Western Cape has to offer. Our route designer, Leon Evans or as he is best known amongst riders, Dr Evil, has managed the perfect balance between exciting trails, challenging terrain and wider vistas in the pursuit of the ultimate mountain biking experience," said Kevin Vermaak, Director and Founder of the Absa Cape Epic.

Prologue - Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town (27km with 900m of climbing)

The race kicks off with a 27km prologue. It will be the fourth time in the race's history that a short team time trial opens proceedings at the Meerendal Wine Estate on the Durbanville Wine Route, passing through protected Renosterveld. Far from just a ceremonial stroll, it will be flat out from the start ramp heading through Contermanskloof, Hillcrest and Kliprug,railing the sublime singletrack in the Tygerberg Hills. On the final push on the lung-bursting climb up to the mountaintop finish, riders will be looking to spectators lining the trail for support, with magnificent views of Table Mountain and Table Bay in the background. Teams will open up their throttles for a good seeding at the official start in Robertson on stage one.

Stage 1 - Robertson to Robertson (115km with 2350m of climbing)

Stage 1 is always a rude awakening for participants. Combining the length, climbing, severity of trail surfaces and speed of fresh-legged hares at the front of the field - all will be a shock to the system, even for the best prepared. Three major climbs will loom ahead of the athletes. The first 3km rise will be littered with loose rocks and tilting to 25 percent, forcing portage, and there will be a risky descent lying in wait. Hangman's Tree will follow, which may be short, but could take up to half an hour to conquer. Beautiful flowing trails then traverse the mountain ridges, showcasing the breath-taking scenery riders have come to expect from the race. Tortoise Peak will be the third major obstacle and riders will be creeping up this slow, yet rideable 5km ascent,named after its ancient residents. Riders with bar ends will need to take care on the descent, with grabbing branches on the off-camber dual tracks. For their considerable efforts, riders will then be rewarded with a beautiful section of trails through Nama Karoo, with a few gentle rises before finally turning East, back towards Robertson with a final rocky plunge into the picturesque town.

Stage 2: Robertson to Robertson (119km and 1650m of climbing)

The route will traverse the beautiful rolling dual tracks through the stony Klein Karoo, passing through the charming village of McGregor. It will be a special day out for the riders. For those who manage to avoid tunnel vision, it will be a geologist's paradise, with remarkable sandstone formations. Some might say this is too much fun for the Cape Epic, but riders will soon be brought back down to earth as the rocks will be sharp with knife-edges shale and deluge of thorns, heavy duty tyres will be essential. Passing through Van Loveren Wine Estate on some severe vineyard hills, a district road will take the race past Ashton as they head towards the mountains for some short, but steep climbs before returning to Robertson.

Stage 3 - Robertson to Caledon (147km and 2900m of climbing)

Route planner Dr Evil cites four major climbs on the longest stage in Cape Epic history, with the action starting around the 40km mark. The first is a 6km dual track, where riders will fight for traction over large rolling rocks. This will be followed by a 4km mast climb, with a view over Villiersdorp. The next lump in the profile will be a smooth and comparatively easy rise to the "Toll House" the highest point of the day, with a fast 5km descent dropping 500m into the valley. At the 110km mark, there will be a humungous climb to scale. A sharp rise will be followed by a tricky descent, undoing all the hard work.Then starting again, from the bottom, will be a steep rocky trail where riders will be switching to their granny gears. Riders will then be able to clock up some mileage on the fast downhill district roads before the last 10km slowsthem down again, traversing farmlands. Riders will be welcomed to their new race village in Caledon.

Stage 4 - Caledon to Caledon (105km with 2600m of climbing)

Two major climbs jab upwards on the day's route profile. The first is the loose, long and steep Babylonstoring, followed by the brutal, stony ascent to Charlie’s Heaven with several false peaks. Riders will be watching the weather report closely, hoping for some cloud cover to take the edge off the scorching heat. With views as far as Cape Point and Cape Agulhas it will be worth going through hell to get to the top. Danger will lie ahead on the rough, steep descent, with jagged rocks and deep ruts on this washed out road. The run into the finish will include open farm roads, fast paths along a railway line, some tight singletrack through Middleton and a few hundred metres of trails in Caledon's botanical gardens.

Stage 5 - Caledon to Oak Valley (119km with 2350m of climbing)

Leon Evans, aka Dr Evil, has one aim on stage 5 and that is to get riders to that famed Oak Valley singletrack as soon as possible. It will be a fast, flowing start, before heading to the fynbos-lined mountain tracks. As participants edge closer to Elgin/Grabouw, their morale will be buoyed by the striking views from the Highlands Plateau onto the Botrivier Lagoon and Kleinmond Beach. A steady 10km climb will take them through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, famous for its biodiversity and rare fynbos. A combination of new and old flowing singletrack will wind through Lebanon, Thandi and Oak Valley on some unforgettable loops in apple country. However, the last few steep singletrack climbs will throw agonising combination punches to the legs in the final push towards the lush fields of the race village in Oak Valley.

Stage 6 - Oak Valley to Oak Valley (85km with 2200m of climbing)

Riders should not be fooled by the distance of the stage. It will be a hard day of climbing and Nuweberg will be the first big challenge ahead with the dangling carrot of stunning vistas at the top. On the penultimate day, nearing the climax of race week, the grand old lady Groenlandberg, will appear. Deep into this highly unique and remote landscape, riders will savour the solitude of the 30km of dual tracks through this pristine Cape Nature reserve as they tackle her in two parts. The first steady rise will bring them to a rutted descent. From here the path will contour along the side of this beautiful mountain, followed by the final ascent towards the saddle, followed by yet another tricky, washed-out descent. Riders will then get to enjoy the coveted single-track in Oak Valley.

Stage 7 - Oak Valley to Lourensford (64km with 1350m of climbing)

Dr Evil has found a new way to the Champs Elysees of mountain biking, again reminding riders there will be no easy day at the Cape Epic. Lourensford will await the tired athletes as they make their way from Oak Valley over Twin Peaks above the Elgin Dam, and down the ever-familiar portage section of Gantouw Pass. Extended singletrack sections will then offer a final reward, before a last test of resolve - a few steep ascents with magnificent views of False Bay and Table Mountain. Once again, Lourensford hosts the Grand Finale festivities as riders experience that bittersweet feeling at the end of the arduous, yet epic journey of the Cape Epic.

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