Cape Town - The Absa Cape Epic will return to the slopes of Table Mountain in 2015 when the rugged eight-day race’s Prologue is staged from the University of Cape Town.
The much-anticipated route announcement took place in Cape Town on Wednesday and the Mother City will kick off the 2015 edition on Sunday, March 15. From there the course takes riders to the Elgin Valley, Worcester and Wellington before the new Grand Finale finish venue at Meerendal Wine Estate on March 22.
Defending champion Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic said there appeared to be “a lot of climbing - and some long climbs, which I enjoy”.
Hynek will be back to defend the title he won this year with German Robert Mennen. In 2015, however, he will be racing with Austrian Alban Lakata.
“There is also more singletrack, which makes it fun,” he added.
The Prologue will be staged on Table Mountain for the first time since 2009. It will start and finish at UCT and, although only 20km, it contains some of the toughest climbs on Table Mountain - including one that has been given an unprintable, expletive-laden name by locals and another called Deadman’s Tree.
2014 Women’s category winner Ariane Kleinhans said it was “really cool coming back to Table Mountain”.
There will be several other talking points about the route once riders have crossed the finish line at Meerendal after eight days.
One of those will be the Paardeberg climb on the Stage 7 - riders will gain an eye-watering 600m of elevation in a 6km climb.
Stage 1 features one of the Epic’s legendary climbs, Groenlandberg, and - at 113km and with 2 800m of vertical gain - threatens to be one of the toughest days of the event this year. The stage begins and ends at Oak Valley Wine Estate in the Elgin Valley, as does Stage 2, a 92km loop, which will take participants along many kilometres of the area’s excellent trail network.
Stage 3 is the longest stage at 128km and takes riders from Oak Valley to their new race village in Worcester. They spend another day in Worcester for the 111km Stage 4, which starts and ends in the town and will pit competitors against some of the toughest terrain in the Western Cape.
Stage 5 is a transition stage to the last race village of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic in Wellington. It is 117km long and includes 2 500m of vertical gain, including a climb up the Bain’s Kloof Pass and some fierce ascents in the Welvanpas trail network: it will prove to be another testing stage in the 2015 event. Riders will get a chance to enjoy themselves on Stage 6, a 71km loop through some of the best trails in the local valleys.
And then it is the final 87km home to the Grand Finale finish at Meerendal. But before they get there the remaining competitors will have to negotiate a climb that is destined to enter Epic folklore - the Paardeberg, slap bang in the middle of the last stage. 2015 Absa Cape Epic Route Summary
Kleinhans said it was “really special to be finishing at Meerendal ... that’s very different but a nice difference”.
20km & 600m climbing
The 2015 Prologue will start and finish at the University of Cape Town. The route will take riders up some of the steepest climbs on Table Mountain to the Tafelberg Road and then includes some short but fun sections of singletrack on the way to the finish.
Oak Valley Estate to Oak Valley Estate
113km & 2 800m climbing
After 20kms of the opening stage riders will be confronted by the notorious Groenlandberg climb. There will be several more rocky and rutted climbs as the route winds back towards the Houwhoek Inn, under the N2 to the south side of the Grabouw district and back via the Lebanon and Thandi Wine Estate trails.
Oak Valley Estate to Oak Valley Estate
92km & 2 300m climbing
A few tough climbs and then lots of singletrack sections. These include trails above the Elgin Country Club and through the Oak Valley and Paul Cluver wine estates. Spectators will gather at the Paul Cluver amphitheatre, with its elevated ramps and suspension bridges.
Oak Valley Estate to Worcester
128km & 2 300m climbing
The longest stage of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic takes riders to their new race village in Worcester. On the way they will climb over the eastern flank of the Groenlandberg and a few more tough climbs as they enter Karoo-like terrain. They will skirt the Brandvlei Dam into Worcester.
Worcester to Worcester
111km & 2 000m climbing
The route traverses some rough and rocky terrain around Worcester, cuts through the Fairy Glen private game reserve - home to Africa’s big five wild animals - and includes three steep climbs, the Skyscrapers, towards the end.
Worcester to Wellington
117km & 2 500m climbing
The route to the new race village in Wellington has some tough climbs, including the Bain’s Kloof Pass on tar and then the Full Monty in Welvanpas, which will test the legs on their sixth day of pedalling. The day finishes on a fun note through some of the excellent Welvanpas trails.
Wellington to Wellington
71km & 2 000m climbing
The shortest stage of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic and packed with more than 30km of singletrack. But don’t be deceived: there are several short and intense climbs during the day - including one which has deservedly been called Forever.
Wellington to Meerendal Wine Estate
87km & 1 500m climbing
After 25km of fast riding riders will be confronted by the Paardeberg, which gains 600m elevation in nearly six kilometres. This is the first time this tough and testing climb has been included in the Absa Cape Epic. The rest of the route is relatively flat until a climb on to Meerendal Wine Estate’s Dorstberg and some singletrack to the Grand Finale finish.