‘Toughest-ever’ route launched for 2012 Absa Cape Epic
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

‘Toughest-ever’ route launched for 2012 Absa Cape Epic

by Xylon van Eyck at 11:06 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Mountain Biking
Sauser and Stander return to defend their title

Christoff SauserThe route for the 2012 Absa Cape Epic was released this week as the race heads to 700 kilometres of untouched terrain in the Western Cape, South Africa. With the route changing every year, the organisers have announced it will be the toughest yet, taking place from the 25 March to 1 April.

The race will once again start with an opening prologue that will see two-man teams racing against the clock over 27km’s. The stage will feature 900 metres of climbing with a mountain top finish on the Meerendal Wine Estate just outside of Durbanville.

The longest stage in the race's history will be on stage three where riders will have to negotiate 147 km’s with four climbs while ascending a total of 2900 metres.

Current marathon world champion and one half of the defending champions Christoph Sauser (36ONE-Songo-Specialized, pictured above) confirmed to VeloNation although it’s an Olympic year, he will be returning to the tough race.

“There’s not much I can say about the route because it’s the same for everybody. We just have to make sure that we’re the strongest team out there with the best equipment.

Kevin Evans“Endurance is in my blood completely, I don’t really have to train for long rides. I only ride for a maximum of five hours and that’s very unusual. What I have to train for is more sprinting but if I am in good condition I’m also up for it”

Although South African Burry Stander (36ONE-Songo-Specialized) won the race alongside Sauser, an African team has never triumphed before. David George and Kevin Evans (360 Life, pictured left) are hoping to change this and put a disappointing crash from this year’s event behind them.

“We are going to go back and we want to be the first South African team with win it, we are capable of doing it with the support we’ve got from out sponsors, providing I can stay on my bike this time,” Evans joked.

Stage details:

Prologue – Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town (27km with 900m of climbing)

The 9th edition of the race kicks off with a 27km prologue. It will be the fourth time in the race’s history that a short team time trial opens proceedings at the Meerendal Wine Estate on the Durbanville Wine Route, passing through protected Renosterveld. Far from just a ceremonial stroll, it will be flat out from the start ramp heading through Contermanskloof, Hillcrest and Kliprug, railing the sublime single-track in the Tygerberg Hills. On the final push on the lung-bursting climb up to the mountaintop finish, riders will be looking to spectators lining the trail for support, with magnificent views of Table Mountain and Table Bay in the background. Teams will open up their throttles for a good seeding at the official start in Robertson on stage one.

Stage 1 - Robertson to Robertson (115km with 2 350m of climbing)

Stage one is always a rude awakening for participants. Combining the length, climbing, severity of trail surfaces and speed of fresh-legged hares at the front of the field - all will be a shock to the system, even for the best prepared. Three major climbs will loom ahead of the athletes. The first 3km rise will be littered with loose rocks and tilting to 25%, forcing portage, and there will be a risky descent lying in wait. Hangman’s Tree will follow, which may be short, but could take up to half an hour to conquer. Beautiful flowing trails then traverse the mountain ridges, showcasing the breath-taking scenery riders have come to expect from the race. Tortoise Peak will be the third major obstacle and riders will be creeping up this slow, yet rideable 5km ascent, named after its ancient residents. Riders with bar ends will need to take care on the descent, with grabbing branches on the off-camber dual tracks. For their considerable efforts, riders will then be rewarded with a beautiful section of trails through Nama Karoo, with a few gentle rises before finally turning East, back towards Robertson with a final rocky plunge into the picturesque town.

Stage 2: Robertson to Robertson (119km and 1 650m of climbing)

The route will traverse the beautiful rolling dual tracks through the stony Klein Karoo, passing through the charming village of McGregor. It will be a special day out for the riders. For those who manage to avoid tunnel vision, it will be a geologist’s paradise, with remarkable sandstone formations. Some might say this is too much fun for the Absa Cape Epic, but riders will soon be brought back down to earth as the rocks will be sharp with knife-edges shale and deluge of thorns, heavy duty tyres will be essential. Passing through Van Loveren Wine Estate on some severe vineyard hills, a district road will take the race past Ashton as they head towards the mountains for some short, but steep climbs before returning to Robertson.

Stage 3 - Robertson to Caledon (147km and 2 900m of climbing)

Route planner Dr Evil cites four major climbs on the longest stage in Absa Cape Epic history, with the action starting around the 40km mark. The first is a 6km dual track, where riders will fight for traction over large rolling rocks. This will be followed by a 4km mast climb, with a view over Villiersdorp. The next lump in the profile will be a smooth and comparatively easy rise to the “Toll House”, the highest point of the day, with a fast 5km descent dropping 500m into the valley. At the 110km mark, there will be a humungous climb to scale. A sharp rise will be followed by a tricky descent, undoing all the hard work. Then starting again, from the bottom, will be a steep rocky trail where riders will be switching to their granny gears. Riders will then be able to clock up some mileage on the fast downhill district roads before the last 10km slows them down again, traversing farmlands. Riders will be welcomed to their new race village in Caledon.

Stage 4 – Caledon to Caledon (105km with 2 600m of climbing)

Two major climbs jab upwards on the day’s route profile. The first is the loose, long and steep Babylonstoring, followed by the brutal, stony ascent to Charlie’s Heaven with several false peaks. Riders will be watching the weather report closely, hoping for some cloud cover to take the edge off the scorching heat. With views as far as Cape Point and Cape Agulhas it will be worth going through hell to get to the top. Danger will lie ahead on the rough, steep descent, with jagged rocks and deep ruts on this washed out road. The run into the finish will include open farm roads, fast paths along a railway line, some tight single-track through Middleton and a few hundred metres of trails in Caledon’s botanical gardens.

Stage 5 - Caledon to Oak Valley (119km with 2 350m of climbing)

Leon Evans, aka Dr Evil, has one aim on Stage 5 and that is to get riders to that famed Oak Valley single-track as soon as possible. It will be a fast, flowing start, before heading to the fynbos-lined mountain tracks. As participants edge closer to Elgin/Grabouw, their morale will be buoyed by the striking views from the Highlands Plateau onto the Botrivier Lagoon and Kleinmond Beach. A steady 10km climb will take them through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, famous for its biodiversity and rare fynbos. A combination of new and old flowing single-track will wind through Lebanon, Thandi and Oak Valley on some unforgettable loops in apple country. However, the last few steep single-track climbs will throw agonising combination punches to the legs in the final push towards the lush fields of the race village in Oak Valley.

Stage 6 - Oak Valley to Oak Valley (85km with 2 200m of climbing)

Riders should not be fooled by the distance of the stage. It will be a hard day of climbing and Nuweberg will be the first big challenge ahead with the dangling carrot of stunning vistas at the top. On the penultimate day, nearing the climax of race week, the grand old lady Groenlandberg, will appear. Deep into this highly unique and remote landscape, riders will savour the solitude of the 30km of dual tracks through this pristine Cape Nature reserve as they tackle her in two parts. The first steady rise will bring them to a rutted descent. From here the path will contour along the side of this beautiful mountain, followed by the final ascent towards the saddle, followed by yet another tricky, washed-out descent. Riders will then get to enjoy the coveted single-track in Oak Valley.

Stage 7 - Oak Valley to Lourensford (64km with 1 350m of climbing)

Dr Evil has found a new way to the Champs Elysees of mountain biking, again reminding riders there will be no easy day at the Absa Cape Epic. Lourensford will await the tired athletes as they make their way from Oak Valley over Twin Peaks above the Elgin Dam, and down the ever-familiar portage section of Gantouw Pass. Extended single-track sections will then offer a final reward, before a last test of resolve – a few steep ascents with magnificent views of False Bay and Table Mountain. Once again, Lourensford hosts the Grand Finale festivities as riders experience that bittersweet feeling at the end of the arduous, yet epic journey of the Absa Cape Epic.


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