The 2022 Absa Cape Epic returns to three of South African mountain biking’s most storied destinations on its 657-kilometre trail to Val de Vie. Brutal climbs, scintillating singletrack and arduous exposure to Africa’s heat and dust will ensure every finisher medal will be hard earned. While up front the route is designed with racing in mind.
The Absa Cape Epic’s route is one of the life’s ever-changing constants. No two editions, in the race’s 18-year history, are alike. There are, however sections, trails and destinations which warrant repeated visits. For 2022 the three race villages demanded fresh appointments with the world’s premier stage race. As did the Grand Finale destination, Val de Vie.
Three of the four have storied history with South African mountain biking, in general, and the Absa Cape Epic in particular. The fourth, in Val de Vie, is working towards its own legacy. A legend in the making. Offering mountain bikers the chance to play their part in the writing of history.
In 2022 The Race That Measures All returns to Lourensford Wine Estate, in Somerset West, for the first time since 2014. The 8 years have been well spent, however, and the trail builders have been busy. Teams are in for a treat, of epic proportions, on the Prologue; while Stage 1 is set to be a test of fitness and skill worthy of the race’s historic precedent of arduous first marathon stages.
From Lourensford Wine Estate the route heads east, on Stage 2. Crossing the Hottentots Holland Mountains and entering the Overberg. Elandskloof, near Greyton, is home for three nights after a 118-kilometre trek into the hinterland. Rugged, unsculpted, trails await on Stages 3 and 4. As does the African summer essentials, heat and dust.
Stage 5 traverses back to the west, summiting three of the Absa Cape Epic’s most infamous climbs in the process. Once in Stellenbosch, the trails reward for every metre of elevation gained. Two action packed stages await, filled with awe-inspiring trails, as the race builds towards the Grand Finale and the final finish line at Val de Vie.
“I believe that the 2022 Absa Cape Epic route provides a great balance” Route Director Hendrico Burger promised. “Between the memorable singletrack climbs, which vary from immaculately manicured to incredibly raw, the stages offer trails, descents and views that will ensure the Absa Cape Epic carves its place into long lasting memories. There will be opportunities to overtake, to attack and to defend for the elite teams; while the less competitive riders will emerge knowing that their finisher medals were hard earned.”
“Lourensford Wine Estate, Greyton and Stellenbosch are all synonymous with mountain biking in South Africa” Burger continued. “Lourensford due, in no small part, thanks to the role it played as the host of the final stage of eight editions of the race. Greyton, meanwhile, used to host some of the first proto stage races in South Africa. Though in those days the long weekends of mountain biking featured multi-disciplines rather than multiple stages. Stellenbosch needs no introduction as a cycling destination as it is surrounded by historic trails. In 2022, the Absa Cape Epic revisits the old Downhill World Cup course on Botmaskop, for example. Fortunately, the 25-year-old trail has been extensively reworked recently, so one doesn’t need to be John Tomac to ride it, fast.”
Prologue | 20 March 2022
A New Beginning
Lourensford Wine Estate
Climbing: 1 050m
After eight years the Absa Cape Epic returns to Lourensford Wine Estate. In 2022 Lourensford serves as the starting point for another edition of The Race That Measures All. What a race it will be, especially if it lives up to the highlight filled billing of Prologues passed. Packed with singletracks, but optimised for overtaking, it sets the tone for the seven stages that follow. Stunning mountain and ocean views await those who can lift their eyes from their stems. The first half drags steadily uphill, driving heart rates ever-upwards, before the second phase of the day is packed with roller-coaster downhills on manicured singletrack. Dual track links provide ample overtaking opportunities and allow the fastest teams to set the best possible times and secure start batches for the week of white-hot racing.
Stage 1 | 21 March 2022
The View from the Throne
Lourensford Wine Estate to Lourensford Wine Estate
Climbing: 2 850m
The first marathon stage of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic leaves nowhere to hide. Scaling King’s Climb is the first order of the day. A brutally long and steep ascent from Lourensford Wine Estate to the heights of the Helderberg Mountains, it will stretch the field for the long Red Route descent of the Helderberg Trails. Following soon after are the virgin trails through Ernie Els and Alto wines which traverse the foothills of the Helderberg towards Dornier. Once inside Dornier’s boundaries playful singletracks provide an adrenaline boost ahead of the day’s most challenging climb, Die Nek. Crossing Die Nek takes the teams back into Lourensford, where a final brutal climb and scintillating singletrack challenge and reward await on the way to the stage’s finish line.
Stage 2 | 22 March 2022
An Untamed Odyssey
Lourensford Wine Estate to Elandskloof, Greyton
Climbing: 2 350m
Stage 2 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic heads due east, taking the teams on an African Odyssey from the luxury of Lourensford Wine Estate into the heart of the hinterland. The route crosses the Helderberg basin, sweeping through Vergelegen, and ascends the Gantouw Link and the Gantouw Pass portage. Once on the Elgin plateau, the forge east continues, but takes in the Waterfall, Witklippies and Pofadder trails. Kat Pas and the new JK’s Switchbacks singletrack leads into the Overberg and onto Van der Stel Pass. From here the route rolls onwards towards a climb that will carve its way into Absa Cape Epic lore in one single encounter. But from the summit, spectacular views await before undulating dual tracks sap the final reserves from the legs on the way to Elandskloof.
Stage 3 | 23 March 2022
A Trail of Two Halves
Elandskloof, Greyton to Elandskloof, Greyton
Climbing: 2 250m
In 2022, the Absa Cape Epic explores the trails of Greyton like never before. It begins with a day backloaded with singletrack; thus, the opening kilometres of Stage 3 are characterised by the other Absa Cape Epic essentials: heat and dust. Sapping climbs and rolling descents soften the legs for the rocky mountain singletracks in the second half of the stage. Long kilometres of farm dual track will ensure a blistering pace early in the stage, before the rocky Greyton singletracks enforce a change of tempo. In the second half of the stage, the trails flow into each other as they rise and fall along the Riviersonderend Mountains. A final twist sees the teams climbing from within sight of the finish line to reach the trail head of the day’s final singletrack. Concentration is the name of the game and those who roll the dice with high speed and high risk jeopardise their Absa Cape Epic finisher medals.
Stage 4 | 24 March 2022
Vale of Grace
Elandskloof, Greyton to Elandskloof, Greyton
Climbing: 1 650m
The second day on the trails of Greyton wastes no time in introducing the teams to the region’s spectacular trails. A district road start provides a quick warm-up before the dual tracks into the mountains above Genadendal spread the field for the trails to come. The mission station’s singletracks are raw and rugged, requiring absolute focus at all times. Luislang, before Greyton, and Mad Dog, after, are free flowing. Bakenskop, meanwhile, is not. A mountain biker’s mountain bike trail, worthy of entering Absa Cape Epic folklore, Bakenskop is a 9-kilometre-long ascent, ridgeline traverse and descent; all on shale singletrack. After the thrills of Bakenskop, the trail heads uphill once more, ascending the UFO climb before a last singletrack descent returns the teams to the Riviersonderend Valley floor and the grind back to the Elandskloof race village for the final time.
Stage 5 | 25 March 2022
Elandskloof, Greyton to Stellenbosch
Climbing: 2 400m
Rusty Gate is, unquestionably, among The Race That Measures All’s most revered climbs. Usually, the assault on it features a pre-amble, a warm-up; but not so in 2022. Leaving Elandskloof, it’s Rusty Gate from the starting blocks, followed by undulating kilometres along the banks of the Theewaterskloof Dam. The eastern ascent of Franschhoek Pass provides the race’s longest section of asphalt, before a trail new to mountain bikers leads the race into the picturesque Huguenot village. More singletracks await on the banks of the Berg River Dam before the route crosses the river to visit the training ground of modern-day gladiators. From Ludus Magnus, it is uphill once more, first gradually and then steeply, over Botmaskop. The day’s final descent to Stellenbosch hints at the rewarding riding still to come in the Absa Cape Epic.
Stage 6 | 26 March 2022
By Hoek or by Crook
Stellenbosch to Stellenbosch
Climbing: 2 700m
Boasting more singletrack per kilometre of racing than in any other 2022 Absa Cape Epic stage, Stage 6 is one for the mountain biking purists, as it explores the famed Banhoek and Jonkershoek valleys. The route departs Stellenbosch by climbing Botmaskop, mixing dual- and singletrack, before dropping into the Banhoek Valley along a series of tightly twisting switchbacks. In the valley itself rocky trails await before the climb back out, via Tokara and the lower slopes of Botmaskop. The route to Jonkershoek traverses high, above a castle in the sky, then snakes up and down, climbing Irish, descending Armageddon and Red Phoenix, then up Bosluis and Firehut before a last descent. Racing home to Stellenbosch, the trail follows the Eerste River and includes a trying final ascent before the finish line on the Coetzenburg fields beckons.
Stage 7 | 27 March 2022
The Trail to Val de Vie
Stellenbosch to Val de Vie
Climbing: 2 000m
After 8 days of limit-testing racing, there is a return to the good life, for those who can complete Stage 7. The Grand Finale takes teams to Val de Vie, the Valley of Life, and does so in style. Many of Stellenbosch’s most famous farms, including Rustenberg, Morgenhof, Muratie and Babylonstoren are traversed on the way to the final finish line. It is not all downhill, however, as altitude has to be gained first before the fun can start. This is achieved by climbing through Rustenberg and onto the Simonsberg Trails. Muratie’s Never Say Neverending thrills, before the route heads north. Crossing fabled farms on a mix of dual and singletrack the race steadily winds down. A last chance to empty the tank is provided by Val de Vie’s estate singletracks, then it’s onto the polo fields and under the Absa Cape Epic’s arches. The finish line appears, too soon for some but just at the right time for many others. 8 days of Untamed racing completed.
2022 Absa Cape Epic Totals
17 250-metres of climbing