25 March to 1 April 2012 sees the ninth running of the Absa Cape Epic. This race has quickly moved up to be at or near the top of most marathon / stage-racers’ wish-lists. Much of that is due to a combination of the toughness of the route and the amazing places it passes through. The 2012 edition looks like being no exception.
On toughness, it looks to be perhaps a notch up on 2011. Five days in a row, from Stage 1 to 5, are over 100k. Stage 3 manages a new Absa Cape Epic record in terms of stage length, at 147k, 4k over the longest from 2011. It includes almost 3,000m of climbing – and that’s South African climbing, much of it loose and steep, as opposed to the longer, but nicely groomed gravel Alpine climbs. This year also misses out the mid-race Worcester time trial, a feature of recent Absa Cape Epics and a chance for those not vying for top honours to take a slightly easier day with more rest time, and prepare for the rest of the race.
In terms of scenery, the 2012 route promises much too, with two new stage locations, and the promise of some exceptional views, especially in the early stages.
So how does it pan out?
The race follows the success of 2011′s Tokai Forest Prologue with a 27k TT in Meerendal, which will be an early test for the legs and will produce a seeding for the start of the race in earnest the following day. It doesn’t entirely follow the pattern of 2011, however, as this effort has a mountain-top finish, with a view of Table Mountain as a backdrop.
Stages 1 and 2 both take place around the Cape wineland town of Robertson. Stage 1 sees some likely portage sections, with climbs hitting 25% in places. Stage 2 then passes through the Klein Karoo, the easternmost wine region in South Africa, and includes somewhat less climbing than Stage 1 but will be a long day out at 119k.
Stage 3 from Robertson to Caledon is undoubtedly the queen stage of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic, with its 147k and 2,900m of climbing. Route designer Leon Evans, otherwise known as Dr. Evil, has certainly lived up to his name on this one, with four big climbs scattered at regular intervals from 40k onwards. There’s going to be no respite on this stage. According to Dr. Evil, “it may well be the biggest day in Absa Cape Epic history - you have been warned”.
Stage 4 is a 105k loop from Caledon, with the second climb offering views as far as Cape Point, and the finish promising tight singletrack in Caledon’s Botanical Gardens.
Stage 5 sees the riders return to more familiar territory – Oak Valley – but this could be a challenging stage, with most of the climbing in the second half.
Stage 6 is a loop around Oak Valley, including a big climb in the nature reserve of Groenlandberg.
As is traditional by now, the final stage of the Absa Cape Epic 2012 is the shortest at only 64k, but tired minds and bodies will still have to work hard to make it to the lush estates of Lourensford.
You can see more details of the route on the Absa Cape Epic route video:
MarathonMTB.com’s Mike Blewitt and Will Hayter will be returning to the race in 2012, aiming to complete it this time after their 2011 attempt ended with a bang and a broken collarbone.
Stay tuned as they provide updates on their preparations, and then as they report daily from the race!