Absa African Jersey
Since 2007, the red Absa African Jersey has been contested by men’s all-African teams. In 2018, a women’s Absa African Jersey was added; together these have led to tremendous development in local mountain biking, by fostering competition and guaranteeing global coverage for African sponsors.
The Absa African Jersey competition is more than just a reward for the top African teams. They seek to inspire competition and reward the companies who sponsor local teams. It creates a race within the race, layering intrigue and providing a cauldron of pressure which turn simmering rivalries, which percolate throughout the year, to come to a dramatic boil.
What, perhaps, inspired the competition within The Race That Measures All was the Kenyan team of David Kinjah Njau and Davidson Kamau Kihagi. The pair competed in and completed the first five editions of the Absa Cape Epic and were known for their long-range breakaways. Their attacking brand of racing never gained them a stage victory, but they did win the hearts of fans and may well have set the tone for the Special Jersey race that would be implemented years later.
David Kinjah Njau and Davidson Kamau Kihagi take a quick stretch break during stage 2 of the 2007 Absa Cape Epic
Since the inauguration of the Burry Stander Memorial Trophy in 2013, the men’s Absa African Jersey competition has taken on added significance. Named in honour of South Africa’s most decorated mountain biker internationally, the trophy is fiercely contested. The first winners of the trophy, Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes, have gone on to win it three and five times respectively; becoming the most dominant riders in the competition.
Initially riding as SCOTT Factory Racing and later as PYGA Euro Steel Buys and Beukes based much of their season around contesting for the Absa African Jerseys. The competition has also seen once-off pairings being pulled together, with jersey victory being their primary aim. Two such teams were the USN PureFit squad of Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock, the 2016 Special Jersey winners, as well as Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers, the most recent winners in 2019 – they also finished fifth overall.
Matthew Beers leads Alan Hatherly during Stage 4 of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. The pair claimed the Absa African Men's jerseys on the Prologue and held them throughout the 2019 race
In the women’s race the Hannele Steyn trophy is but two editions old. In 2018 it was won by Amy McDougall and Candice Lill, while in 2019 Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph rode to victory. “Winning the Absa African Special Jersey at the 2019 Absa Cape Epic was such an incredible experience” recounted Hill. “It was a tough start for Theresa and me, with our penalty on the Prologue. It set us back on the general classification, but the drive to claim the Absa African Jersey kept us in the race!”
“This additional women's category was a great incentive for my previous sponsor, Galileo Risk. They have always been incredibly supportive of women's cycling, and due to the coverage guaranteed by the competition they took on two new team members, Sam Sanders and Kim Le Court, for 2021. The Absa African competition provides the chance for riders from African countries to be competitive in a race with the race, before taking the leap up to an international level. I hope that more African riders will contest for the jersey in the 2021 Absa Cape Epic.”
The Absa African competition provides the chance for riders from African countries to be competitive in a race within the race, before taking the leap up to an international level.
Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph of Galileo Risk claimed the Absa African Women's jersey, despite an early time penalty in the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.
The 2021 Absa African Jersey competitions are sure to be fiercer than ever. With uncertainty over global travel, there is, conceivably, an opportunity for an Absa African team to win the race overall, too. Which would be a historic feat and one which Kinjah Njau and Kamau Kihagi were surely dreaming of when they launched their 100-kilometre breakaway attempts all those years ago.
Matt Beers laying down the watts during stage 6 of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.
Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys are no strangers to the red Absa African Men's jerseys with a host of victories between them.
The Kenyans Davidson Kamau Kihagi and partner David Kinjah Njau lead the bunch during stage five of the 2008 Absa Cape Epic
Absa African Women's Jersey winners Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill celebrate during the final stage of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.
Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock drive the pace through Tulbagh's rugged trails in the 2016 Absa Cape Epic.