stage 7 - report
The Grand Final
Crossing the Final Finishing line
The Grand Finale from Lourensford Wine Estate to Val de Vie Estate was the ultimate culmination of a strenuous week of racing for every single rider. The 78-kilometre route was no easy swan-song and tested riders' limits after seven days of tough riding on the Western Cape's Untamed trails. Featuring 2400 meters of climbing, it was one of the toughest Grand Finales in the event's history. Starting with a climb to Lourensford Nek, the route took riders through Mont Marie, Eden, the famous G-Spot trails, and the Stellenbosch World Cup Course before the second major test of the day at Botmaskop.
The final stretch on Banhoek and Boschendal's famed trails provided a moment of reflection before the race ended on the singletracks of Val de Vie. The final 500 meters on the estate's polo fields were where emotions overwhelmed riders as they crossed the finish line, hailed as heroes by the 15 000-strong crowd.
While Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company claimed the stage win, it was Matt Beers and Chris Blevins who galloped home as the ultimate winners. The Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne’s rode a perfect tactical stage to overturn the deficit on the yellow jersey and ended the day as Absa Cape Epic Champions.
In the CM.com Women’s category, Kim Le Court and Vera Looser retained their overnight lead as they rolled across the line seconds behind Cannondale Vas Arabay’s Greete Steinburg and Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez (who claimed their first stage win) to be crowned the winners.
“We knew from last night that there was only one way to win today, and that was to go for it right from the start,” said Blevins after the stage. He and Beers rode alone for much of the first 20km, with Baum, Egger and Singer Racing (Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn) joining the lead bunch before the climb up Botmaskop. Also in attendance was lone Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne 2 rider, Tristan Nortje, riding in support of his A team.
That was the status of the Men’s race until the final 20km, when Baum and Egger made a surprise surge for the finish line. They couldn’t drop the Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne team or Singer Racing and all three teams made it to the Val de Vie Estate finish area together.
Frey and Stiebjahn, content to ride hard but not interfere in the general classification race, looked to have set themselves up for a stage win - until Martin Frey inexplicably went flying over the handlebars on the home stretch.
Stiebjahn powered ahead, not realising his partner was in a heap on the grass. The crash allowed Baum and Egger to take stage honours, with Beers and Blevins calmly rolling over the line, ready for the official timer to kick in.
Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne knew they’d put some time into the lead of SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, and sensed it was enough for the overall win, but it was only when the time passed a minute-and-a-half, with Schurter and Frischknecht nowhere to be seen, that they knew the 2023 Absa Cape Epic title was theirs.
Matt Beers, now a two-time champion of the Absa Cape Epic, was thrilled with the performance and the crowd support. “That was a great win, not just the ride today, but the entire week. We had to come from a really dark place after battling on Stage 1 and I think that just shows how strong our partnership is and how much we believe in each other. We both really helped each other this week. There was so much crowd support out there for us; I think we rode that last stage on pure adrenalin. I am completely spent now.”
In the CM.com Women’s category, the efforts of the week seemed to finally take their toll on Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo). After a freak accident and subsequent surgery for Wakefield, and the drama of the broken rim on Stage 6, the e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo pair dropped off the pace early into the Grand Finale.
Orange jersey wearers Looser and Le Court led the stage throughout the 80km, alongside eventual stage winners Steinburg and Calderon (Cannondale Vas Arabay). There was little incident to speak of in the Women’s race, with the leading two teams seemingly happy to ride together. Once on the Val de Vie Estate finish stretch, Le Court and Looser dropped back slightly, allowing Cannondale Vas Arabay to take the stage.
The 2023 Absa Cape Epic Champion in the CM.com Women’s category, Kim Le Court, could barely get her words out. “We did it” was all she could muster as champagne sprayed all around her.
“This is such an amazing feeling,” added Looser. “It’s been a long hard week and we had to dig really deep, but we made it. I think we need a week or two to let it sink in!”
For Wakefield and Lill, it was a brutal week of emotions but they still managed to finish the final stage with smiles as did every rider who crossed the line on the day to claim their medal and have their name immortalised in the Book Of Legend. “After our Saturday mechanical I was so bleak,” admitted Wakefield. “But then I looked at all the messages on social media and I was in tears. I was so touched by the support. You couldn’t make up the things that happened to us during that week, but we just kept going.”
Lill echoed her partner’s sentiments and perhaps best summed up what it takes for anyone to finish this race, “It’s been an insane week! We’ve been through all the highs and lows … Anything can happen at the Absa Cape Epic."