in 2024 Title Tilt

Specialized Bicycles will look to add a ninth elite men’s Absa Cape Epic title to their record setting list of Untamed crowns as the defending champion, Matt Beers, partners a 2018 winner. Racing as Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne Beers and Howard Grotts will also be able to count on the support of Alex Miller and Johan van Zyl. 

South African Marathon Champion, Matt Beers won his second Absa Cape Epic title, in 2023, alongside American Chrisopher Blevins. The former motocross racer turned mountain biker is famed for his big engine and steam train like characteristics on the flats. Which should make his 2024 teammate feel right at home, because Howard Grotts’ 2018 victory came alongside the original mountain biking locomotive, Jaroslav Kulhavý.

With hardly a flat kilometre and many steep climbs the twentieth Absa Cape Epic route is likely to suit Grotts more than Beers. Though local knowledge and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race know-how will off-set any slight imbalances on the ascents for the South African. Beers still sees ample opportunities for his strengths to thrive.

“I think the route has a good combination of really steep climbs and power climbs,” the double race winner noted. “The route is very similar to 2021, when I won with Jordan [Sarrou] so I'm excited for it. Howard has won this race before and knows what to expect. We raced with each other a bit in the USA last year and I think we have a good idea how each other likes to ride.”

“I think this route suits Howard a lot, I'll definitely be hanging on when things get very steep,” Beers continued.” I also think he knows how to manage a rider like myself, having won with Jaro [Kulhavý] back in 2018. The heat and rough conditions will offer a very different style of racing this year, I believe, so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.”

The route and the likely climatic conditions could make the racing as interesting as Grotts’ return to the Western Cape. The American has not started an Absa Cape Epic since 2018 and has spent time away from elite racing, obtained a master’s degree in mathematics and found a renewed love of the sport. “The pandemic was a natural point to do some reflection and think about something beyond bike racing,” Grotts explained. “Having the chance to move to a new town [Missoula, Montana] for a couple years also stoked the fire to explore and get involved with different sports, like running and Nordic skiing. But in the end, having the opportunity to race bikes for a living is pretty special, not to mention ephemeral. I've been lucky to have Specialized with me through it all, which is even better!”

Specialized’s support has seen Grotts predominantly turning out in American gravel races since his return to competitive racing. He is thus excited for the adventures and diversity offered by the Absa Cape Epic. “I'm really just looking forward to some proper mountain bike racing,” he smiled. “The calendar is pretty dominated by gravel events these days, which isn't a bad thing, but it's nice to ‘get back to my roots’. But even in the five years I've been away from the Absa Cape Epic, bike technology, nutrition, and training science have all improved, so it'll be interesting to see what the level is like. Plenty hard, I'm sure, but with good views!”

Scenic vistas and the expectation of exciting racing are more than enough motivation to keep the top riders motivated. Beers is also driven by the events of recent years which reaffirmed the old adage that anything can happen in mountain bike races. “I guess the biggest thing I've learnt is that it's not over until the very end,” the South African XCM champion stated. “The teams are stronger; the tyres and bikes are better; so, it leaves the race very open until the end. The racing has definitely become a lot more aggressive due to the race coming down to the last day for the past two years. Everyone believes they have a chance to move up a place or win the race.”

By the Numbers


First ACE: 2016

Finishes: 7

Best Result: 1st (2021 & 2023)

Stage Wins: 9


First ACE: 2017

Finishes: 2

Best Result: 1st (2018)

Stage Wins: 2

Support Team: Toyota-Specialized

Matt Beers and Howard Grotts will be backed up by the Toyota-Specialized team at the Absa Cape Epic. Namibian Alex Miller goes into the 2024 edition as one of the reigning Absa African Champions, alongside former teammate Phillip Buys, and will be partnered by 22-year-old Johan van Zyl. The team could provide invaluable support to the Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne squad, in the case of a mechanical, while simultaneously pursuing their own aspirations for a top ten general classification position and a tilt at the Absa African Jerseys.