The ABSA Cape Epic is the brute of the marathon stage race game. Plenty of events will claim to be the hardest, some claim the best trails, some claim the best event services – but there is no escaping the fact that the Cape Epic is the biggest of the bunch. As we have published before, it is as hard as they claim, and it shouldn’t be underestimated. The twentieth edition in 2024 has just had the route released, covering 613 kilometres and over 16 000 metres of climbing from the Prologue in Lourensford to Tulbagh, followed by Wellington and on to the Grand Finale in Stellenbosch.
“Over the years this partnership has grown from strength to strength igniting innovation and instrumental change in the sport of mountain biking, as well as having a substantial economic impact within the Western Cape region,” said Absa Group Chief Marketing and Corporate Affairs Officer, Sydney Nhlanhla Mbhele about backing the event for another year.
2024 Absa Cape Epic Route Descriptions
Cape Epic Prologue: 17 March 2024
Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West | 26km | 1050m | 2.5 Stars difficulty
Lourensford Wine Estate serves as a comfortable setting to head out for a demanding first taste of the 2024 route. With over 1000m to climb in just 26km, riders will need to put the right amount of sting in the legs without overdoing it for the long week ahead. Taking off inn the shadow of the Helderberg Mountains, teams will return to the finish line with a clearer idea of how their week may play out. Teams transfer north to Tulbagh for the first marathon stages. Stage 1 and 2 both start and finish at the spectacular Saronsberg Wine Estate, famed for its wines, blueberries and art.
Cape Epic Stage 1: 18 March 2024
Saronsberg, Tulbagh | 90km | 2450m | 4.5 Stars difficulty
The Cape Epic route may have started with a hilly Prologue, but the difficulty of Stage 1 in Tulbagh will surely deliver a quick cull that the organisers seem to love, weeding out those who didn’t give the event the respect it deserves, missing hours of training or perhaps some simple steps in their equipment preparation.
Four major climbs punctuate the day, including the infamous Fanti’s Pass. It’s not just all challenges and climbing though. Handbuilt singletracks, never before ridden in a race will offer a welcome reward for the uphill toils. Exceedingly tough on the way up. Scintillating on the way down. Stage 1 will be beautiful throughout.
Cape Epic Stage 2: 19 March 2024
Saronsberg, Tulbagh | 93km | 2200m | 4 Stars difficulty
There’s no respite after the first stage, with another long day in the dust and heat on the cards in the Witzenberg Valley.
The Witzenberg Valley is famed for its technical trails. While the valley might not feature a large amount of climbing, it is no walk in the park. The rocky trails deny momentum and reintroduce the concept of inertia to all but the most skilful. The drop back to the Tulbagh Valley is no free ride. Rocky in places, line choice will be vital. Stage 2 will require mental as well as physical fortitude to stay sharp, stay in one piece, and stay in the race.
Cape Epic Stage 3: 20 March 2024
Tulbagh to Wellington | 94km | 2100m | 3.5 Stars difficulty
This is the first transfer stage, as the race packs up on Wednesday morning and departs the Tulbagh Valley for Cape Peninsula of Technology’s Wellington Campus. This is the only transition stage of the 20th edition.
This stage will be one of contrasts. From rolling turns on hotmmix, you will also be challenged by the remoteness of Stage 3, going from purpose-built trails to raw and wild tracks. A flat run starts the day before the course gets complex with a dual track climb into the wild. The summer sun will have slowed the waterfall to a trickle and turned Zuurvlakte to a valley of rock and sand – a puzzle that you and your team mate will need to piece together to get through smoothly. Teams will experience some classic Cape singletrack cut through pristine fynbos before Bainskloof pass and an unexpected sting in the tail, do not expect a direct race home from the summit.
Cape Epic Stage 4: 21 March 2024
Cape Peninsula of Technology, Wellington | 88km | 3000m | 5 Stars difficulty
Don’t be fooled, although Stage 4 is the shortest distance since the Prologue, with 3000m of climbing this is the Queen Stage of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. So get your rest and have a good breakfast.
Stage Four will demands climbing prowess with more climbing than any other stage in years – Stage 4 is defined by ascents. They begin relatively steadily, then become longer and steeper as the day progresses until it reaches into the clouds with South Africa’s most awe-inspiring Cliff Hanger trail. The Toyota Tough section of the day. Built on Canetsfontein and part of the Imbuko Big Five Challenge, clinging to the very highest slopes of the Hawequas Mountains it takes a head of heights and technical skills to conquer.
Cape Epic Stage 5: 22 March 2024
Cape Peninsula of Technology, Wellington | 70km | 1750m | 3 Stars difficulty
Today riders will take on the Wild Boar Trails. You can expect technical climbs, traverses and descents. It sits at odds with the previous days as it will be flat out fun, but still with a challenge or two.
With 70 kilometres and 1750 meters of climbing on the cards, the stage has a mix of district road and dual tracks to start the day; but once on the trails, they flow back-to-back along the slopes of the Limietberg and into the Doolhof Valley. As fatigue begins to set in, teamwork will be vital. If one is feeling good while the other suffers the gap between teammates will amplify. After this stage riders will pack onto a bus for a vehicle transfer to the final stages.
Cape Epic Stage 6: 23 March 2024
University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch | 87km | 2300m | 4.5 Stars difficulty
Let’s hope you enjoyed Stage 5 as Stage 6 shows that the Cape Epic is going to come out swinging on the penultimate stage – so you better do the same.
This stage delivers 87 kilometres with 2300 meters of climbing. The route presents climbs aplenty across some of South Africa’s most famous wine farms. It does however also boast a metric tonne of singletrack, both uphill and down. The trails twist and turn with berms and rollers interspersed among small drops and rises.
Cape Epic Stage 7: The Grand Finale – 24 March 2024
University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch | 65km | 2000m | 4 Stars difficulty
Don’t expect an easy parade lap on the last day of the Cape Epic. With 60km on the agenda you also have 2000m of climbing squeezed in there, which is a lot on tired legs.
Most of the stage takes place in the world-renowned Jonkershoek Valley. The course zig-zags uphill and down, climbing one side of the valley three times and descending it in turn too. Sweeping and fast, tight and technical. Smooth in places. Rocky in others. A high traverse above familiar terrain leads to the final hurdle of the 2024 race and then you cross that finish line, finishing a race that may or may not be the hardest mountain bike stage race. Either way, finishing it is a huge achievement!