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Absa Cape Epic Prepares for Launch at Lourensford

By Absa Cape Epic, 03/16/24, 9:00AM HST


We heard from excited riders as they attended rider registration for the 20th edition of the Untamed African MTB Race.

A cool, dusty, blustery Lourensford Wine Estate greeted 1200 riders on Saturday 16 March as they registered for the 20th Absa Cape Epic. The miserable weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of the mountain bikers from 44 nations however as they signed in ahead of Sunday’s Prologue, which promises to be a fitting opener to what many are calling the toughest Untamed route ever.

“It was not our intention to create a particularly testing course specifically for the 20th edition,” commented Route Director, Hendrico Burger. “However this route will no doubt help ensure a memorable edition for this special year of the Untamed African MTB Race.” he added. 

“It’s definitely going to be a tough one,” Craig Kolesky echoed his sentiments as he was registering for his 10th event. “I feel that I’ve prepared well and stayed calm and relaxed in the build-up. Super excited to get going now, though,” he added.

As fired-up to roll off the start line is ex-UCI World Tour roadie, Darryl Impey, who is riding his debut Absa Cape Epic alongside celebrity chef and multiple Cape Epic finisher, David Higgs. “Lots to learn but this is gonna be a fun week” he said, before adding that, “this is a whole different sport than riding on the road.”

The man who has worn the maillot jaune is not worried about this distance but has some other concerns. “Fitness-wise I know I'll be fine, but the bike handling is so different. I've been really impressed with how quick Dave is on the downhills. I didn't think he'd be that daring to be honest, he just commits to it and I’ve had to try follow! I’m going to work hard on the climbs so I can get a bit of a gap and cruise the downhills,” he joked. “We've had such a nice journey to get here already and knowing what we’ve done for Marang House already. It's been humbling… Now it’s just to get it done together and it all starts here at Lourensford tomorrow.”

Indeed, the spectacular wine estate nestled in the bowl of the Hottentots Holland Mountains is steeped in the annals of Untamed history, having hosted the event more than 10 times in various incarnations, from Grand Finale to prologues and stages. The 26km route is packed with singletracks, but optimised for overtaking to allow the fastest teams to set the best possible times, and will no doubt set the tone for the following seven stages.

“The Prologue is quite different from the past routes, even the Lourensford one,” said South African Candice Lill who finished second in the Aramex Women’s category in 2023. “It’s a ‘busy’ route with lots of ups and downs, whereas in the past we often had a lot of flat sections. It will definitely suit a bit of a cross-country style riding.” Lill and Cannondale Factory Racing teammate, Mona Mitterwallner, go into the race as favourites paper and are likely to be duking it out with Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM, featuring defending champion Vera Looser and American XCM Champion Alexis Skarda and Sofia Gómez Villafane and her new Toyota Specialized NinetyOne teammate Samara Sheppard.

A lot of racing remains to be done though. “Talk is cheap, you have to get to the finish," mused Absa Cape Epic veteran, Oliver Munnik who is riding his 14th race. “This is an eight-day race sure, but the Prologue remains important,” said, before adding how well the prologue course was riding after pre-riding it with his partner. “It’s nice to have a final shake out — you and your partner get an hour-and-a-half just to get in the groove. The track is running superbly, it’ll probably be a bit dustier tomorrow, but the grip was all-time this morning.

At the Men’s category end of the field, starting the Prologue last, the men’s race features a stacked field with multiple past winners in the mix. The teams of Toyota Specialized NinetyOne, ORBEA LEATT Speed Company, and World Bicycle Relief, start the 2024 race with the distinction of having finished first, second and third last time out. It is however only the Speed Company outfit of Egger and Baum that have maintained their 2023 partnership. Matt Beers pairs up with 2018 champion, Howard Grotts, while Nino Schurter will race for charity with Sebastian Fini. Other teams to keep an eye out for are Canyon SIDI, Buff Megamo and Wilier Vittoria Factory.

If you are not in the Western Cape to watch the event in the flesh, you can of course also experience the Untamed action of The Race That Measures All as it happens by tuning in to the Live Broadcast.