Oak Valley Estate hosts the Absa Cape Epic for the ninth time, in eighteen editions, in 2023. It is no surprise however that the iconic estate has welcomed the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race to its trails on so many occasions. After all the riding is superb and the race village itself is one of the best.
Location, location, location is the adage for homes and businesses. It rings true for mountain bike race villages too, though. Especially when it comes to Oak Valley. Not only is the famous estate home to incredible singletracks, it is also conveniently located in the shadow of Groenlandberg and boasts a great layout for a race village.
The Oak Valley Estate rugby fields allow for the finish line, Absa's Rider Lounge, dining marquee and rider tents to be situated in one central zone. The Squirt Bike Wash, Tech Zone and camper vans are all located closeby too. Only Second Camp is a bit of a walk or ride away, but even that is only a couple of hundred meters away. Plus, the entire area is carpeted in lush green grass and lined with old oak trees. It simply makes for a superbly convenient and comfortable race village experience.
That all makes a difference after four days of racing at the Absa Cape Epic. On Stage 3, of the 2023 race, the route will take teams from Hermanus to Oak Valley on an arduous 108 kilometre trek. For the first time the race approaches the Elgin plateau directly from the south, ascending from Kleinmond into the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
This course means crossing the Valley Road Farms which are among the world’s leading apple producers. It is an area seldom explored by the Absa Cape Epic. Stage 4 will provide more familiar sights, though Cape Trails have been hard at work adding new singletracks since the race’s last visit to Elgin, in 2019.
The mid-race time trial boasts a trail-filled stage. Complete with punchy climbs and testing descents, which will showcase once again why Oak Valley is such a popular mountain biking destination. Perhaps an earlier finish and a more relaxed afternoon will provide the opportunity to celebrate completing the first half of the race? If so Oak Valley's wines could provide a crisp aid to the easing into relaxation after a dusty morning on the trails.
Stage 5 starts at Oak Valley before climbing Groenlandberg en route to Lourensford Wine Estate, another iconic Absa Cape Epic venue. Departing Elgin teams will first be challenged by the famed climb before being treated to views across the plateau from the basin’s northern boarder before dipping back in for a race through the A to Z trails and down the historic Gantouw Pass.
Gantouw was, for centuries, the only access route into Elgin, from the west. Initially Khoi San herders used the portal to move cattle between grazing grounds and to trade with early European sea farers. Then, in more recent times, ox wagons were dragged up the pass as the settlers sought out new lands in the interior.
Sparing a thought for the oxen, as well as the men and women who lugged their worldly possessions up the mountain when descending there will provide some context for the level of suffering any Absa Cape Epic rider is enduring. Though that is arguably not what one wants to read. There are less perspective enforcing attractions in Elgin too.
For the non-riders the Cape Canopy Tours provide adrenalin thrills. While the Suicide Gorge kloofing hike is ideal for the true thrill seekers. It is a day hike and swim, which requires jumping from ever higher cliffs into rock pools as one follows the river downstream. The final jump is nearly 12 metres high, so the kloofing is certainly not for the faint hearted.
More sedate activities in the region are largely wine tasting or culinary based. Visit www.elginvalley.co.za to find out more. Alternatively click through to www.oakvalley.co.za and digitally explore the 2023 Absa Cape Epic’s third race village. There is no question that it is among the very best race village venues.