The iconic mountain-bike race from South Africa returns with a superbly tough and technical edition that will see riders tackle Table Mountain National Park to final stage destination at Val de Vie.
By
SBS Cycling Central

15 Oct - 6:20 PM  UPDATED 25 Oct - 12:04 PM

SBS OnDemand is the place to watch all the highlights from the 2021 Cape Epic, with all the highlights, thrills and spills from one of the most renowned mountain-bike events in the world. We will have daily highlights from the race, available on SBS OnDemand, the Cycling Central website and via SBS Cycling Central social media. 

Prologue - October 17

The Prologue features climbing from the off; through campus and the UCT XC Track and onto the dual tracks of Table Mountain National Park. The first significant challenge is the Quarry Climb. Riders will then ascend to Dead Man’s Tree; virtually the highest point of the stage. The asphalt of Table Mountain Road provides rolling respite before the white knuckle descent of the day’s Technical Terrain section: Plum Pudding.

 

Stage 1 - October 18

Hard work lies ahead to harvest the rewards of the exceptional Eselfontein trails. After a relatively easy start to the stage, the first singletrack climb is fortuitously wider than most, actually allowing for overtaking opportunities. Two more singletrack climbs follow, including the ascent of the Dead Man Walking climb.

The singletrack from the summit is the day’s Technical Terrain section, Pipeline. A final loop, from the central water and spectator point complex on the Eselfontein farm, takes in more scintillating singletracks including some of the oldest purpose-built mountain biking trails in the country. 

 

Stage 2 - October 19

The Witzenberg Valley is undoubtedly one of mountain biking’s most challenging playgrounds, making Stage 2 a fitting holder for the title of Queen Stage. Sheets of sandstone provide the ultimate testing ground for man, woman and of course, machine.

Crossing the Ceres Valley is the first step on the journey. Then comes the Old Gydo Pass. On the Bokkeveld plateau the dual track climb gives way to singletrack. Snaking ever upward into the Witzenberg Mountains the trail becomes increasingly technical. As it starts to weave its way between sandstone outcrops the Technical Terrain section begins. It is far from the only technical section of the day’s route however.

In the valley below, nearly 20 kilometres of virtually uninterrupted singletrack awaits. Only the day’s final climb brings an end to the singletrack. From the summit Table Mountain is visible on clear days, as is the stage finish, at Saronsberg. A final white-knuckle singletrack descent, along an old wagon trail, then drops from the heights of the Witzenberg to the Tulbagh Valley far below.

Stage 3 - October 20

With two converging mountain ranges to explore, Stage 3 of the 2021 Absa Cape Epic is not short on climbing. Nestled in the nook between the Groot Winterhoek and the Witzenberg Ranges the Tulbagh Valley is not hasty to reveal its rewards. The stage begins benignly enough, thereafter the climbing begins in earnest; upwards towards the Bone Trail. Beyond, a network of brand new singletracks explores virgin territories.

Well-established singletracks provide an exhilarating reward for conquering the two-thirds of the day’s climbs. But one huge climb remains; Fanties Pass, arguably the toughest climb of the 2021 route. Topping out at over 20% and averaging 14% for its final 2 kilometres it will demand every ounce of energy.

Stage 4 - October 21

The early kilometres may tick past with unnerving ease, but once the surface begins to roughen the challenges come thick and fast. Brutally uneven dual tracks through a private game reserve provide a sudden shock. Crossing the Breede River the challenging riding recommences with a steep but short climb into the Slanghoek Mountains. Rocky singletracks undulate along the length of the range; punishing the legs before the infamous Thudbuster climb drive heart rates in the red. From there it is into the Technical Terrain section, the Slanghoek trails climb.

From the top, it’s into Slanghoek cross-country course followed swiftly by the most technical of the mountain’s trails, covering the final kilometres to the remote finish at the Goudini Spa.

Stage 5 - October 22

Leaving Wellington, the only way is uphill on the lengthy Hawequa Climb. It is never steep, but rather a slow, leg-sapping grind. The descent from the summit starts on dusty dual track, before slipping into the Brooklyn Bridge singletrack. Singletrack climbs and descents blur into one vision of agony and ecstasy thereafter.

Up Seven Peaks, down Cool Runnings, up Aap d’Huez into Full Monty – the day’s Technical Terrain section – and a further black diamond, black route loop. The fun, games, climbing and, in all likelihood, suffering are not quite over yet. Riders must battle home for very hard-earned rest and recovery ahead of a big weekend of riding.

Stage 6 - October 23

A sawtooth profile is exactly what riders do not want to see come the penultimate day of the Absa Cape Epic.  Steep but mercifully short vineyard climbs start the day before the Wild Boar Rollercoaster provides singletrack thrills. District roads and farm dual tracks, through iconic wine farms, manage to avoid any serious climbs but the trail surface deteriorates sharply thereafter, demanding complete concentration. Upon exiting the reserve, the climbing begins in earnest. The Python singletrack ascent adds another telling point of reference.

Then the Wild Boar Trails are all about challenging thrills. Before the closing kilometres, riders will encounter True Grit, the stage’s fast but rocky Technical Terrain section. The Golden Mile then deposits riders into the farmlands surrounding Wellington and allows winding dual tracks to lead them home.

Stage 7 - October 24

Between Wellington and Val de Vie lie a final 66 kilometres of Untamed mountain biking. The Grand Finale is one last test to ensure that no finisher’s medal is handed over without the realisation being driven home that it was hard-earned.

Patatskloof, Beulah and the Hawequa Climb roll neatly into one right from the off. Hugging the dizzyingly steep slopes of the Hawequa Mountains, the route loses hard earned altitude only to ascend again, up the Protea Climb. Undulating dual tracks tick off vital kilometres before the Freedom Struggle Climb and the Bone Rattler, which also forms the race’s final Technical Terrain section. Then, finally, onto the spectacular grounds of Val de Vie.

SBS OnDemand is the place to watch all the highlights from the 2021 Cape Epic, with all the highlights, thrills and spills from one of the most renowned mountain-bike events in the world. We will have daily highlights from the race, available on SBS OnDemand, the Cycling Central website and via SBS Cycling Central social media.