Within the already-select Absa Cape Epic peloton there is an even more select group of riders; the Epic Legends. Completing just one of these Epic Series stage races is remarkable. Three? Exceptional.
Cape Town bike shop owner and former Springbok road cyclist John O’Connor is busy with his third Absa Cape Epic, well on his way to not just joining the Amabubesi club but cementing his place as one of the 144 current members of the Epic Legends peloton. 14 more will join, providing they finish the 2023 event.
“I had the privilege of riding SPAR Swiss Epic and 4Islands MTB Croatia last year, to go with a couple of Absa Cape Epic finishes, which was great. It is wonderful to ride in other countries knowing you will be getting the same level of organisation as the Epic.”
Is The Untamed African Mountain Bike Race deserving of its billing as the Pinnacle of the Epic Series? “Obviously, because I am South African, but also because it is the ultimate. The Swiss and Croatian events are tough in their own right, but this is still the hardest and best one. The terrain, the trails are rugged and tough here; Switzerland is more flowing and manicured, just with a lot of climbing. Here at the Epic everything gets tested - your physical condition, your skills… even emotionally, it is super-tough. It’s a killer.”
Andrin Beeli and Fadri Barandun form part of an impressive Swiss contingent in the league of Legends, and are racing at the very sharp end of the field. Beeli is at the Absa Cape Epic for the second time. “The races, they are organised perfectly and the tracks are really special. And they are all really hard to race, but you feel like you are in an important race every time. And every race is so different, each one requires different abilities, the Absa Cape Epic asks you different things compared to SPAR Swiss Epic, for example.”
Is the Absa Cape Epic the big one? “Of course, yeah. I am Swiss and I love the SPAR Swiss Epic, but actually the Absa Cape Epic is the biggest by a long way. It’s the biggest mountain bike race in the world and when you are at the start you really feel it. Everybody told me how fast the starts would be, and they really are - like an XCO start every day. I imagined it, but it was not ready - the first five kilometres with everyone riding for position, it’s mad.”
Barandun’s first Absa Cape Epic has been an eye-opener. “It’s like SPAR Swiss Epic, just three, four, five times bigger. It has been super-hard sometimes, Andrin is a bit stronger than me, so he helps me a lot here, the days are super-long and rugged.” It isn’t surprising Beeli has put his partner in the occasional hurt locker on one of the most mountainous Absa Cape Epic starts to date. “I am maybe 64 kilos, he is 58 or something. That is quite a big difference on the climbs.”
A final word from O’Connor, on a subject that will have aficionados across the Epic Series twittering. “And the coffee at the Absa Cape Epic is the best.”
With one stage left to race, we're excited to welcome more members to the Epic Legend club.