There are many legends of the Absa Cape Epic – the five-time winners, the riders who overcame the odds to make it to the start line and finished The Race That Measures All, and the Last Lions – all count. There are, however, three men who have achieved a great deal, whose impact on the race goes beyond finishes and victories.
Bart Brentjens, Jakob Fuglsang and Stefan Sahm have, each in their own way, helped elevate the global status of the Absa Cape Epic. All three are elite category winners, too. Though their race results alone are only half the story of how they shaped the race.
The Dutch mountain biking legend Brentjens won the second edition of the Absa Cape Epic, way back in 2005. Since then, he has gone on to add the Dimension Data Masters and Grand Masters titles to his palmarès; in addition to numerous national titles, a World Cup overall crown, the 1995 MTB World Championship and the inaugural MTB Olympic Gold Medal.
Brentjens’ early adoption of the race, as a cornerstone of his mountain biking calendar, helped convince fellow elite riders to make the trek to South Africa to race the Absa Cape Epic. Initially they were solely drawn to test their mettle against him. In more recent times, his role is that of one of the event’s senior statesmen. Even in his final year in the Dimension Data Masters category, when his rivals were nearly a decade his junior, Brentjens remained among the favourites for the title. In the Grand Masters category, he and, long-time partner, Abraão Azevedo seem set to dominate for years to come.
Off the bike he remains one of the race’s biggest advocates. Brentjens’ CST PostNL Bafang mountain bike team are a constant presence in the race, using it to fine-tune their form for the cross-country season. The team is yet to emulate their owner’s success in either of the elite categories, though that could well change with the South African champion, Mariske Strauss racing in their colours.
In 2019, Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo added a purple Grand Masters category jersey and win to their list of achievements
Bart Brentjens is one of the few riders who prefers to race the Absa Cape Epic on a hardtail.
The face of focus. Bart Brentjens leads the pack during the 2010 Absa Cape Epic
At the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo raced to a Dimension Data Masters category win
The 2008 Absa Cape Epic champion, Fuglsang, is among the best cyclists to ever take part in the race. He made is debut in the Untamed African MTB Race as a 22-year-old, before winning it the following year, alongside Brentjens’s former partner Roel Paulissen. Since switching from the mountain to the road the Dane has won two Critérium du Dauphiné titles and two of cycling’s Monuments, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia.
Fuglsang proved that the Absa Cape Epic can act as a proving ground for the World Tour. He is far from the only elite road racer to take part in the race; but he is unique in the fact that he did so as a young talent, rather than as a retired star racing as much for fun as for results.
Jakob Fuglsang leads Roel Paulissen through a river crossing during the 2008 Absa Cape Epic
Sometimes teamwork means a push or a pull here and there. Jakob Fuglsang and Roel Paulissen in the 2008 Absa Cape Epic yellow leader jerseys
The Absa Cape Epic is a mountain bike race, after all. Not even a ride on the rim could stop Jakob Fuglsang and Roel Paulissen from winning in 2008
Sahm is the third in our list of Legends of the Absa Cape Epic, but the German is by no means less vital to the race. He is a three-time winner, in his own right, having aided Karl Platt and Team Bulls to titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Since retiring from elite racing Sahm has continued to shape the race.
Viewers of the Absa Cape Epic live stream and the highlight shows will have witnessed Sahm’s view on the race first hand. The former champion is now the lead eBike camera operator. He follows the elite men’s race, on a Bulls eBike, capturing the action in a way that simply isn’t possible with stationary cameras or from a motorbike.
As the route becomes increasingly technical, weaving though tight singletracks which motorbikes simply cannot navigate, Sahm’s skills become more important. Being able to follow the race, capture the action, but not interfere with the racing is a remarkable set of skills. Only a former elite rider, with nine Absa Cape Epic finishes to his name, would be capable of the task.
These three riders are unique, however there are countless others who’ve done their bit to make the Absa Cape Epic what it is today.
Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt after claiming their second Absa Cape Epic Elite Men’s category win (2010)
Even though Stefan no longer races, he plays a crucial role in the Absa Cape Epic by bringing the action to the world live from his BULLS e-bike
Stefan has never lost his love of the Absa Cape Epic and we are so proud to work with him each year
Stefan Sahm leads Karl Platt during the 2008 Absa Cape Epic. That year they finished in second place