Pre-Riding and December Absa Cape Epic
December is prime time for Absa Cape Epic training. With the 2024 route featuring so much climbing and such a large amount of singletrack it would be silly to focus solely on gaining fitness on the road or gravel bike. You will have to ride trails!
And there is no better place to ride singletracks in the Western Cape than in the Cape Winelands. Between the trail hotspots of Somerset West, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Durbanville you will be able to get all the singletrack reps you will need to conquer the 20th Absa Cape Epic in. The blazing son will not do your training any harm either, as it is unlikely to be cooler in March than it is now in December.
The Wine Lands Cycling Club routes are a great place to start. You can ride the Lourensford trails too, but only at select times on certain days of the week. So, plan those rides carefully. The grind from The Hanger Bike Co, on the corner of the R44 and the Klein Helderbergpad Road, to the summit of the Helderberg downhills is certainly one of the tougher climbs in the region. Doing that will help you prepare for the ascents dotted throughout the Absa Cape Epic.
With over 150 kilometres of marked mountain biking routes around the town your options are endless. It makes sense to pre-ride Jonkershoek, Mont Marie, the Coetzenburg XCO trails and Muratie’s singletracks however. Many of the Stellenbosch Trail Fund trails are free to access, while others require you to pay via Zapper or SnapScan as you enter a private property. The Muratie routes can be accessed from the Dirtopia Trail Centre while Jonkershoek’s gate is controlled by MTO Forestry and requires day visitors to both pay and sign in.
The Paarl Mountain is increasingly a fantastic place to ride your bike. You can start at Laborie, at the Spice Route or Rhebokskloof. Despite lacking the sheer elevation gains of climbs in Jonkershoek, the Helderberg or Wellington the Paarl Adventure Trails are steep in places and force you into punchy efforts which will come in handy, come March. They also boasts some of the most spectacular singletrack descents and as they are not being used in the Absa Cape Epic riding them now will not detract from the first ride wow factor of riding an incredible trail during the race.
Just 20 kilometres away, across the Berg River Valley Wellington also boasts an incredible selection of trails. The most readily accessible of those is the Wild Boar and Scouts Trails. Both include some good climbs as well as great singletracks. The main feature you will be itching to pre-ride, the Cliff Hanger, is unfortunately on private land and is not part of these routes. It is also currently being repaired for the Imbuko Big Five and the Absa Cape Epic, so if you would like to pre-ride it, you will have to enter the Big Five in February.
Home to Meerendal, one of the Absa Cape Epic’s most frequent host venues, for Prologues and Grand Finales, many of Durbanville’s wine farms have joined to create a vast network of trails. Under the management of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club, which has over 6 000 members, the close on 200 kilometres of marked trails provide near endless riding opportunities. Much like Paarl, what Durbanville lacks in climb length it makes up for in gradient. The singletracks vary in technicality across the network and allows riders to upskill as they go, which makes them a great place to progress in technical aptitude and fitness.
Wine Lands Trails
With the exception of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club trails, in Durbanville, all the trail networks listed in this article are accessible through the Wine Lands Trail network. Mountain bikers can purchase regional boards to access selected routes, or buy the overarching permit which gives you access to 17 trail networks and over 1 300 kilometres of routes. To find out more visit www.winelandstrails.com.