Picture it: Two teams not in the top three manage to break away on the first climb of the day and work together well enough to stay away until the final kilometres. Effectively riding themselves onto the GC podium… Only for one team to suffer a puncture, fix it in record time, remount and gun to the finish for a sprint finish. Drama - what the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race is all about.
But, if you didn’t see it, did it even happen?
Not too many years ago the news of that breakaway effort and how the dark horse teams buried themselves for that stage win would be relayed from a combination of scouts out on the course; the lead motorbike and, the sequence how teams came through the water points. Nowadays pro team support and supporters alike watch the racing live on the Epic Series App, on the event’s social media accounts, as well as local and international broadcasters catching every bit of action as it happens, thanks to two helicopters, five camera motorbikes, three e-bike camera operators (read about them here), a roaming camera and units at the water points connect to the Dimension Data/NTT war room, with more than 70 personnel involved in some way.
In 2021 viewers in 116 countries amassed 472 218 viewing hours of untamed African mountain-bike racing through the Absa Cape Epic live broadcast.
It’s an impressive set of stats and something anyone can be proud of. Even more impressive when you consider the production evolved from a static camera on a finish line, to a live broadcast comparable to any event in the world within just six events.
But, much like a pro such as South African Matt Beers (who won the 2021 men’s race with Jordan Sarrou) you stay humble, thank your team, evaluate what worked, critically assess what didn’t and then focus on the next one.
“One of our core values is innovation,” says Sarah Harrop, Senior Marketing Manager of the Epic Series. “So we make use of the best talent, premium partners and cutting-edge technology. The learning curve has been steep, though,” she contends, highlighting the fact that without a partner such as Dimension Data/NTT, this would never have been possible.
“We have come from sitting on hay bales under a gazebo to having a full OB Van in a few very short years,” says Myles Hoppe, Live Broadcast Project Director, echoing Harrop’s sentiments by explaining how a big part of that evolution has been Dimension Data/NTT. “The other big game changer was bringing in a forward-thinking partner like that as an innovation partner.”
In 2021, at Val de Vie sat the Absa Cape Epic’s state-of-the-art broadcast studio, which hosted commentary gurus Gerald de Kock, Neil Gardiner and five-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Annika Langvad for four hours each day; two outside broadcast editing trailers, an OB control unit and miles of thick cables so the communications within the village don’t tax the cellular grid. Dimension Data/NTT also provides Wi-Fi across the race village for the organisation, the riders and visitors to watch the race while they are waiting for their champions to come in.
“The Absa Cape Epic is The Race That Measures All, not just the riders. It is a great place for us to push ourselves and our technology to the limit in order to fully capture the Absa Cape Epic experience,” says Hoppe.
Huge kudos must, of course, also go to the men and women on the ground and in the air capturing the action. “Bigshot media have been a part of the Absa Cape Epic since very early on and have a huge amount of experience,” says Hoppe outlining how Mark le Roux and his team added a layer of live broadcasting on top of the post race shows they were producing in the early days, and, how they are always on the cutting edge of pushing the boundaries of live broadcasting.
It’s been a steep, but super exciting learning curve over the years,” Le Roux says. “I do believe the Absa Cape Epic is leading the way in remote broadcasting in very tough conditions. We love pushing the boundaries and are not shy to take a knock if it doesn’t work. We’ve been fortunate that to date we’ve not had to deal with the ‘didn’t work,’” he laughs. It’s a famous laugh and it is that humour that many believe has been the glue of the live team over the years.
You’ve got to have some fun while doing this too, right?”
According to Le Roux, the addition of Vodacom to the fold has opened a whole new set of doors for the mobile production team.
“This is the Untamed African mountain bike race and the route goes into such remote regions that sometimes there simply isn’t coverage,” Le Roux explains. “Vodacom has come on board and is putting up temporary towers for us in the mountains. We started with that in 2021, but for the brutal 2022 route it is going to be crucial, especially around Greyton.”
So, what can viewers expect of the 2022 event coverage? “The Absa Cape Epic has always prided itself on pushing boundaries, we’ll keep doing that for this installment, stay tuned!”
Live Broadcast Times
11:00 - 15:30
08:30 - 12:00
08:30 - 12:40
08:30 - 11:45
08:30 - 11:00
08:30 - 12:20
08:30 - 12:00
08:30 - 12:00