The 11th edition of the Absa Cape Epic took place in the Western Cape from the 23rd to the 30th of March 2014. The eight day stage race covered a total of 718km and included 14 850m of climbing divided into a prologue and 7 stages.
Sasol came onboard as a headline sponsor for the Epic this year increasing the ladies prize money to equal that of the men. To enhance the competition for this prize purse, and to help grow ladies mountain biking, Sasol also entered two ladies teams.
In January I was offered the chance to be part of one of these teams for the Epic and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I feel privileged to have been part of this project and have to thank Sasol for the opportunity as well as my current sponsors for allowing me to be part of the Sasol Team for the Epic.
Sasol partnered me with Stellenbosch resident Leana de Jager who has already completed three Epics. Leana and I are good friends and have done several stage races together which meant we didn’t have to spend any time and energy getting to know one another and we could focus on the task at hand.
The 23km prologue kicked off proceedings at the picturesque Meerendal Wine Estate, situated just outside of Durbanville in the Tygerberg region. We had a steady ride knowing this would only be the aperitif for the week’s main menu of suffering.
From Meerendal the Epic race village moved to the quaint little town of Robertson, situated in the shadow of the majestic Langeberg Mountains. Arabella Wine Estate became our home for stage one (108 km, 2450m of climbing), a very wet and muddy stage two (101 km, 1550m of climbing) and the start of stage three (134 km, 1800m of climbing). The 3rd stage was the longest stage in this year’s Epic and took riders from Robertson to the charming village of Greyton.
Set at the foot of the Zonderend Mountains and close to Greyton, the Oaks Estate hosted the Epic race village for stage 4 (88 km, 1850m of climbing) and 5 (110km, 2900m of climbing) before heading on to Elgin.
The finish line of stage 5 awaited riders under a canopy of ancient Oak trees at Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin. This would become our final camping ground for the concluding two nights of Epic 2014. Stage 6 (85km and 1800m of climbing) was laid out in the surrounding area and took riders over the infamous Groenlandberg where, believe it or not, we were greeted by an opera singing goddess making the whole experience even more surreal.
The final stage (68km and 1800m of climbing) took us from Elgin over Nuweberg pass, down the historic ox wagon trail to the highly anticipated finish at Lourensford in Somerset West.
As you can imagine it is impossible to summarize this 8 day journey which took us 42hours, 2 minutes and 30 seconds of riding time to complete. Most of the trip fades into a blur of unorganized memories only to fall in place once you start talking about a specific event.
In life we all know how important a relationship is in the outcome of success. Leana and I had a great relationship on and off the bike and I am sure this contributed to our consistent riding throughout the event. The route this year was also very well balanced with no “hike a bike” sections as in the past. This made for a challenging Epic but still an enjoyable one.
With the Absa Cape Epic being one of the biggest mountain bike races worldwide, there is always tough competition, so Leana and I were very pleased to finish 7th in the ladies category and 2nd South African ladies Team.
Big thanks to my partner (Leana de Jager), Sasol teammates (Yolande de Villiers, Ischen Stopforth, David
Labuschagne, Johan Labuschagne), support crew (Henties de Villiers, Dirkie Labuschagne), Cycle Lab (Lynnwood and Centurion) bike mechanics and everyone from Sasol for an unforgettable experience.
Ladies Overall Results
1st Ariane Kleinhand & Annika Langvad
2nd Esther Suss & Sally Bigham
3rd Jennie Stenerhag & Theresa Ralph
4th Milena Landtwing & Hielke Elferink
5th Sara Mertens & Laura Turpijn
6th Ischen Stopforth & Yolande de Villiers
7th Yolandi du Toit & Leana de Jager
8th Hanlie Booyens & Mariske Strauss
9th Tanya Rabie & Nicola Walker
10th Theresa Horn & Desiree Loubser