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Prologue: Category Wrap

By Absa Cape Epic, 03/19/23, 8:15PM HST


How the racing in the categories unfolded

Teams tackling the 2023 Absa Cape Epic were treated to near perfect conditions at Meerendal Wine Estate on the opening day of the 19th edition of The Untamed African MTB Race. Meerendal, and the Tygerberg MTB Club, provided the perfect setting for racing in not just the professional categories, but throughout the various age group categories, ranging from Amateur right through to Great Grand Masters.

In addition to the introduction of new categories for 2023; this year also marks the first year in the race's history where age group category leaders, and eventual winners, are awarded jerseys across both the men's and women's field. 

While the early starters began the race in gilets and arm warmers, the sun eventually broke through and with it came an increase in the temperature and the heat of the racing. Especially in the brand-new category for Amateurs. The GC leaders of the Amateur category received the honour of wearing the new white leader jerseys. 

Amateur category

The Amateur category salutes dedicated riders competing at a top level despite their work commitments, and is reserved for riders aged 19-39 who are not UCI-registered professionals. 

Australian Mitchell Docker and his American teammate Ian Boswell (Digger and the Doughboy) were the first-ever wearers of the white jersey which identifies them as the leaders in the Amateur category after their storming performance on the 27km Prologue. Though given their pedigree on the road, this was not unexpected. Their time was 1:13:30, some 10 minutes off Matt Beers and Chris Blevins' overall Prologue winning time!

South Africans Marisa van der Linde and Brigitte Joubert (SheUntamed Adventures) raced their way into the leader jerseys in the Women’s Amateur category after an incredible day in the saddle; they raced home in just 1:32.53.

NTT Masters

Czech riders Pavel Gonda and Jan Fisnar (Czech Rockets Outfindo) laid claim to the NTT Maters category jerseys thanks to their barnstorming Prologue winning time of 1:12.26. This pair had been earmarked competitors (read favourites) as their competitors, and the Czech pairing proved their worth immediately. 2022's NTT Masters category winner Karl Platt, from Germany, and his new Spanish teammate Tomi Miser (Legends Bulls:MONDRAKER) finished off the podium in fifth place some five minutes behind.

In the NTT Masters Women’s race, 2017 Absa Cape Epic champions Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss, representing Absa Cape Epic Sponsor won the Prologue in 1:31.94. They hold a lead of 00:03:38 over the team of Tessa Keers and Nicola Walker.

Grand Masters

In an early surprise, Dutch riders Leon van der Heijden and Matthieu Tanke (TMI-Velopartz-Berria) took the lead in the Grand Masters category (riders older than 50) with a winning time of 1:17.28. Multiple defending champions Dutchman Bart Brentjens and Brazil’s Abraao Azevedo (KMC Mtb Racing) were second, some 11 seconds back with team FVG wrapping up the podium.

Great Grand Masters

In the brand-new category – which offers recognition to riders both 60 years and older – the first wearers of the Great Grand Masters category are Frenchmen Rene Vallee and Alain Broglia (Forestiere Rosti 2) with a time of 1:29.20.

Vallee is no stranger to the Epic Series as he is an Epic Legend with multiple SPAR Swiss Epic and 4Islands MTB Croatia finishes to his name in addition his three Absa Cape Epic finisher medals.

Toyota Mixed

The Luxembourg duo Marc Fautsch and Fabienne Schaus (Toproad Roeserbann) won the Prologue in a time of 1:24.44 to take the lead in the Toyota Mixed Category ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing's Riaan Weideman and Sam Sanders. The famed Spaniard, Ibon Zugasti and his Orbea Factory teammate Alice Pirard rounded out the podium. Though we are sure that there are mix-ups to come, especially given the character of Zugasti and the strength of the competitors in the field.


Absa African Jersey 

Multiple former winner of the Absa African Jersey, Philip Buys of South Africa and his Namibian teammate, Alexander Milner (PYGA Euro Steel) took hold of the red jersey with a Prologue time of 1:04.53. The pair was enjoying the virtual lead for quite some time however they finished day one in sixth place overall. Though their lead in the Absa African Men's jersey competition is close to two minutes over the Imbuko {type} DEV team of Marco Joubert and Pieter Du Toit.

While Mauritian Kim Le Court and Namibia's Vera Looser were on the course, the Absa African Women's jersey was most likely not the sole focus; the evidence is the pure ferociousness with which they attacked the trails. The virtual lead in the Women's category was yo-yoing and it appeared that Efficient Infiniti Insure would claim the win, however they finished second on the day and in so doing claimed the red Absa African Women's jerseys.

Exxaro Jersey

Nhlanhla Mthembu and Siyanda Gumede (Citi Change a Life) won the Prologue in 1:18.17 and will wear the Exxaro Jersey Special Jersey on Monday’s Stage 1.

The wearers of the Exxaro Women’s Jerseys are Refilwe Mogorosi and Omphile Mataung (Exxaro Academy Ladies). They finished the Prologue in 1:47.24, a great time that also saw them finish second overall in the Amateur category.

Stage 1

The first stage of the Absa Cape Epic is Monday in Hermanus over 98km (2550m climbing). 

The Hemel en Aarde trails have steeped themselves in Untamed history in recent years. This is in no small part due to the extreme heat which scorched 2019’s first marathon day into memories. The 98-kilometre-long Stage 1 includes 2 550 metres of climbing as it ascends through the best of the Hemel en Aarde Valley seemingly countless kilometres of singletracks and into the searing Overberg planes. The outbound loop trends relentlessly uphill; up Katkloof to The One before bone-rattling descents point downward. Though the descent back to Hermanus sees an overall loss in elevation, teams should be warned, it is far from all downhill. The return loop is technical and challenging, filled with rugged limestone trails which bake in the March sun, making them treacherous to the tired. Gold medal winning wine estates provide spectacular spectator points for the fans and oases of heaven in a race through hell for the riders.