Looking ahead to 2023

to the 2023 Absa Cape Epic



The nineteenth Absa Cape Epic features a number of exciting firsts, including expanded racing categories and routes through areas the race has never visited before. It also boasts new sponsors, the promise of returning racers and the makings of another scintillating edition.

In mountain biking and life, sometimes one needs to revisit the classics. While returning to a great novel after a few years may reveal details overlooked at first, retuning to great trail networks provides the opportunity for fresh approaches, the inclusion of features which may have been skipped last time around, and for the addition of new trails. For unlike books, singletracks are always evolving and there is no stasis in trail building.

Therefore, the return to Meerendal Wine Estate presents fresh opportunities from a familiar venue. The theme of rediscovery runs through the entire 2023 Absa Cape Epic route. From expanding into previously unridden sections of the Hemel en Aarde Valley, on Stage 1, to exploring the trails of Stanford, on Stage 2, which when the race last visited in 2008, was almost entirely devoid of singletrack. Stage 3 takes a fresh approach to the well-loved race village of Oak Valley, while Stage 5 climbs the fabled Groenlandberg from an infrequently used direction. Stage 6 plays homage to the old and new in Lourensford, setting the scene for a race through South African mountain biking’s national heritage sites around Stellenbosch on the

final stage.

The event promises firsts. Including a first taste of the Ultimate Southern Pass Trail network between Stanford Valley and the Paardenberg Farm. It also makes use of the Kleinmond Cycle Club’s trails for the first time. As well as providing thrilling first rides of new singletracks in Oak Valley Estate and Lourensford.

Those trails and some of the more established tracks of the Absa Cape Epic will see new categories doing battle in 2023. Launched throughout the Epic Series in August, following the SPAR Swiss Epic, the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race will now boast Amateur (19-39) and Great Grand Masters (60+) age groups, in addition to the Masters (40-49) and Grand Masters (50-59) categories. The existing men’s categories and the two new age groups are also replicated in the women’s race, with jerseys and trophies for the leaders and winners.

The Amateur races, in particular, should be hotly contested. Along with the NTT Masters the youngest age category is set to bring a new highly competitive element to the race. Starting in A Batch and racing alongside legends like Christoph Sauser, Karl Platt and Bart Brentjens, the teams contesting the white Amateur jerseys will need to be superbly conditioned. In the past, riders like Hannes and Sakkie Hanekom, would have been among the contenders for this new competition; while now one expects young(ish) former elite racers like Oliver Munnik to target it. Regardless of who emerges victorious the Amateur category winners will likely have to place in the top 30 overall and possibly notch up a top 25 finish.

The white and grey are not the only new Ciovita leader jerseys being introduced from 2023 onwards as the Exxaro Special Jersey will now also feature a women’s jersey! You can find more information on this pioneering new green jersey in Chapter 2.

Headlining the new sponsors roster is Toyota. The South African division of the world’s largest car manufacturer has joined the race as the Official Vehicle Partner, Mixed category sponsor, and Official Route Partner to the Absa Cape Epic. Along with ensuring the course, all the way from Meerendal to Val de Vie, is immaculately marked Toyota will be presenting daily Toyota Tough sections. These route features encapsulate the most memorable pieces of each stage and will be showcased in a series of videos launching ahead of the 2023 race.

For any team nervous as to the scale of the challenge ahead or for the terrain they will face the Toyota Tough videos will provide valuable insights into some of the most challenging and exhilarating sections of the course. Be sure to watch them on the Epic Series YouTube channel when they are launched ahead of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.

What’s not new is the scale of the task at hand. While 658 kilometres may not appear too threatening on paper, you’d be wise to maximise your time on the trails during your December break if you are to enter the new year fighting fit and ready to go toe-to-toe with what the Untamed African MTB Race has in store

for you.