route and racing overview
The route, the race and the
Technical trails. Torrential weather.
Tough racing…TIA - This is Africa.
This, is the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race.
The 2023 Absa Cape Epic truly lived up to its various monikers: It was wild, untamed and truly ‘the race that measured all.’ After 650 kilometres of racing featuring some 16 000 metres of climbing, South African hero Matt Beers and his American counterpart Christopher Blevins took the title. The Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne pair were arguably the strongest team of the eight-day race, shrugging off one disastrous stage to win five stages throughout the week and engrave their names on the trophy.
While the racing at the sharp end was fast and tactical throughout the week, each rider that crossed the finish line at Val de Vie on Sunday 26 March was a true hero.
The 2023 Absa Cape Epic kicked off on 19 March 2023 at the Meerendal Wine Estate in Cape Town with a prologue. The first challenge of the 648km, 2023 route featured some 750 metres of climbing over the 27 kilometres. The defending champions, local hero Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne), won the prologue, blazing through the three big climbs and various singletrack descents, including the Toyota Tough on Hoogekraal in a time of 01:03:01 to claim the first Yellow Jersey of the 2023 edition. In the CM.com Women’s Category, defending champ Sofia Gomez Villafane and her new race partner Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) finished first, while in the men's category, Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) had to settle for second on the day.
Stage 1 on Monday 20 March was characterised by gale force winds providing a challenging environment for the riders. Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo) persevered through the storm and emerged victorious in the women's category. This, despite Wakefield sustaining an injury from a collision with a tree and having to tape up the wound. In the men's category, defending champions Lukas Baum and Georg Egger (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company) attempted several attacks, but Schurter and Frischknecht rode into the yellow jersey after finishing second behind Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman (Wilier Pirelli Factory). Overnight leaders Beers and Blevins had a difficult day and finished 12th on the day, dropping down to eighth on the GC.
On 21 March, the race moved on to Stage 2 around Hermanus, which provided picturesque views after the stormy previous day. Again Wakefield and Lill seized the initiative. In the men's category, Baum and Egger managed to win the stage after beating the SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing team in a tight finish.
Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic race took riders through 100km of purpose-built singletracks and district roads with 2300m of climbing. Local riders dominated the stage victories in the men's and women's categories.
On Stage 4, a mid-race time trial was held within Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Estates, spanning 47 km with steep ramps and 875 meters of climbing, making it the most demanding time trial in the history of the event. Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins won the time trial and their fourth stage victory, while Vera Looser and Kim le Court won in the CM.com Women’s Category. Beers and Blevins were now in third place on the GC podium, five minutes behind the Yellow Jersey leaders Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht.
Stage 5 was one of the most brutal days in the event's history, with torrential rain causing crashes and swims. In the Men’s race, German duo Egger and Baum won the overall title by attacking on Tierkop climb and holding a commanding lead over the chasers. In the CM.com Women’s category, Looser and Le Court made their move on the iconic Groenlandberg climb and secured the overall title.
Stage 6 was a muddy affair, and Matt Beers and Chris Blevins won the Men’s category and launched themselves into second overall. Le Court and Looser claimed another stage win and took the orange leader jerseys in the CM.com Women’s category.
The challenging 78-kilometre route of Stage 7 culminated in a tough Grand Finale, and Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company won the stage while Beers and Blevins were crowned the Absa Cape Epic Champions in the Men’s category, and Le Court and Looser were the overall winners in the CM.com Women’s category.