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Cape Epic: 10th anniversary of legendary South African mountain bike challenge




Since 2004 mountain bike specialists, pros and amateurs alike, have turned out in their hundreds each year to test their physical and mental strength in the South African mountain bike stage race, the Cape Epic.

This year, for the event’s 10th anniversary, 1200 riders from 45 countries will set out from Durbanville on March 17th knowing that they must cover 698km and 15,650m of climbing to get to the finish, eight days later in Somerset West. The event is raced in teams of two, with both riders having to stay together to the finish line. It’s a tough call, but one that is answered every year: not only by the world’s best but also by amateur riders who snap up entries within minutes of them going on sale in order to have the chance to ride the event alongside the pros.

Olympic and World Champions on the start line

The 2013 field comprises no fewer than 13 former and current mountain bike World Champions as well as the gold, silver and bronze medallists from London 2012 and the gold, silver and bronze medallists from the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. The Cape Epic gives them the chance to test themselves against each other for eight consecutive days at the beginning of the season.

Topping the bill this year is three-time Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic). The Swiss rider won in 2011 and 2012 with South Africa’s Burry Stander, who was tragically killed in an accident while out training at the beginning of the year. Sauser and Kulhavy have made it their mission to race in honour of their former Specialized Factory Racing team mate.

The Cape Epic also sets alight the imagination of elite athletes from other sports: in 2013 contenders include former UCI Road World Champion Stephen Roche, four-times Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost as well as World Champions in karate, rowing, rugby and waterskiing. Nine riders, including one woman, return for their 10th edition of this race.

A crew of 5000 accompanies the riders

The Cape Epic is the baby of Kevin Vermaak, who organised the first edition in 2004 without imagining the sheer scale it would reach. Today, he works with an event crew of over 800, but for the actual event more than 5000 crew, sponsors, volunteers, media and supporters travel with the race.

“The race is much bigger than we could have imagined back in 2004,” says Vermaak. “I have been lucky to create something from nothing and turn my passion for mountain biking into my job. Every year we find ways to improve the race, which seems to make it more and more popular with both Elite UCI riders and amateur mountain bikers.”

They all want to be part of the high drama racing against the backdrop of Table Mountain and African wildlife, which is the Cape Epic, the Untamed South African mountain bike race.


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