Cape Epic 2023: Stage By Stage

Here's how the stages of the 2023 race unfold


From Meerendal to Val De Vie, this is what the 2023 Absa Cape Epic holds in store.


Sunday, 19 March 2023

Meerendal Wine Estate

Distance:      27km

Climbing:      750m

Difficulty:      2.5 Stars

A View to Thrill
Not since 2017 has the Epic Prologue unfolded at Meerendal Wine Estate, and in 2023 it will be a welcome return to the estate and its world-class trails. Meerendal has hosted the Epic on eight previous occasions, meaning that returning riders may be versed in what’s to come, but that’s before considering that the trail teams who carve and perfect the trails in the area have spent the last few years expanding the trail network across neighbouring farms and estates. There will be climbing from the off in the nineteenth edition of the Epic all the way to the summit of the Dorstberg. Downhill skills will be required too, on trails traversing Fair Cape and Hoogekraal before a final climb leads back into Meerendal and the new singletracks on the estate’s lower slopes. For the fans lining the trails and those watching from home the iconic Cape Town landmarks, Table Mountain and Robben Island, provide a sublime backdrop to what is sure to be thrilling racing.

Stage 1

Monday, 20 March 2023

Hermanus to Hermanus

Distance:      98km

Climbing:      2550m

Difficulty:      4 Stars

The Hemel en Aarde trails have steeped themselves in Epic history in recent years. This is in no small part due to the extreme heat which scorched 2019’s first marathon day into memories. The 98-kilometre-long Stage 1 includes 2 550 metres of climbing as it ascends through the best of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s seemingly countless kilometres of singletracks and into the searing Overberg plains. The outbound loop trends relentlessly uphill; up Katkloof to The One before bone-rattling descents point downward. Though the descent back to Hermanus sees an overall loss in elevation, teams should be warned, it is far from all downhill. The return loop is technical and challenging, filled with rugged limestone trails which bake in the March sun, making them treacherous to the tired.

Stage 2

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Hermanus to Hermanus

Distance:      116km

Climbing:      1 850m

Difficulty:      3.5 Stars

Where the winds blow
Not since 2008 has the Epic visited the Paardenberg. 2023 brings exploration to the area, racing trails which have been painstakingly built over the last decade. Exploring the growing network of trails around Paardenberg and Stanford requires a trek across the flatlands along the shores of the Klein Rivier Lagoon. This 15-kilometre burst, and the return leg, account for 26% of the stage distance but only add single digits to the accumulated elevation gain. That means the vast majority of the 116-kilometre stage’s 1 850 metres of climbing comes in a brutal 86-kilometre middle section. Thrills, like the Ultimate Southern Pass and Missing Link Trail, plus the singletracks along the banks of the Waboomsrivier are countered with climbs into the Akkadisberg and Paardenberg ranges. With opportunities for attacking racing combined with a relentless route, Stage 2 is sure to be one of the most captivating days of the 2023 race.

Stage 3

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate

Distance:      108km

Climbing:      2 600m

Difficulty:      4.5 Stars

 New Frontiers
The first transition stage, from Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate, traverses wild country nestled within pockets of manicured agriculture. 108 brutal kilometres of raw, natural trails separate the race villages. Sections of purpose-built singletracks and brief flirtations with district roads provide moments of respite on smoother surfaces. 2 600 metres of climbing makes for an arduous day on the bike however. The challenges begin from the gun, with a climb out of Hermanus and into the wild; then trails deep in the fynbos lead into Wildekrans where tight and twisty trails make gaining momentum difficult. Onwards and uphill as the Honingklip trails lead to a brand-new challenge, a hitherto unused climb into the Hottentots Holland Mountains and onto the Elgin plateau. Valley Road Farms and Paul Cluver provide final climbs before a high-speed, high-risk, high-reward run into Oak Valley ensures the stage ends on a high, ahead of the time trial on Stage 4.

Stage 4

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Oak Valley Estate to Oak Valley Estate

Distance:      47km

Climbing:      875m

Difficulty:      3 Stars

Captives of Chronos
Time, the old saying goes, waits for no man. And nowhere is that more relevant than in the race of truth: the battle against the clock within the boundaries of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Estates. At 47-kilometres long, the mid-race time trial in 2023 is more taxing than any which have preceded it in the history of the Epic. Designed to continue the relentless tests which the 19th edition sets for the teams, it features 875 metres of climbing too, all of which comes in steep ramps rather than long drags. The course is packed with singletrack, making it a test of skill as well as fitness. Maintaining a rhythm to climb twisting trails – like Berg Adder – and then descend with the required aggression – down trails like Puff Adder, Vissie’s Magic and Sounds of Silence – will require absolute focus. It will be a day that, despite its composition as a small section of the overall route, will test partnerships from start to finish.

Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 5

Friday, 24 March 2023

Oak Valley Estate to Lourensford Wine Estate

Distance:      102km

Climbing:      2450m

Difficulty:      5 Stars (QUEEN STAGE)

The Emerald Queen
The Queen Stage pits teams against the race’s most famed climb, Groenlandberg. Though the imposing peak, which lurks ominously over the Oak Valley Estate race village, is far from the only challenge. The 102 kilometre long Queen Stage heads east rather than west, towards Lourensford Wine Estate, when it departs Oak Valley Estate. Even getting to the foot of the climb requires hard work, ascending through Paul Cluver Wine Estate and up Tierkop before the climb truly begins. The Green Mountain itself is a long, steady, climb; suited for the pure climbers rather than the powerful puncheurs who will have thrived on much of the route to that point. After descending from the highest point of the 2023 race, the route winds its way towards the Eikenhof Dam, up Willie’s Trail and sections of the famous A-to-Z singletracks towards the Gantouw Pass. The compulsory portage leads into Knorhoek and across the Vergelegen Game Park where the day’s final climbs help tick the accumulated climbing up to the 2 450 metre mark. Once in Lourensford Wine Estate, the River Trail leads riders straight down to the finish; mercifully without a final sting in the tail, for once…

Stage 6

Saturday, 25 March 2023

Lourensford Wine Estate

Distance:      82km

Climbing:      2300m

Difficulty:      4 Stars

The Spear
For the first time in history, outside of a time trial, an entire stage will be hosted by a single landowner. The Prologue and Stage 1 of the 2022 race hinted at the spectacular mountain biking within the vast Lourensford Wine Estate. 2023 delves into the details. Exploring trails both old and new. Taking on sculpted icons like the Lourensford Ultimate and rugged remains of South Africa’s first foray into trail building, like the Blue Gum Dam singletrack. All 82 kilometres and 2 300 metres of climbing take place within the boundaries of the estate, and given the quality of the trails there is no compromising on the route, despite never crossing a fence. Rather, the riding is superb throughout, with the added benefit of being exceptionally spectator-friendly. The course crosses over itself as it skirts on the estate dams, creating a unique opportunity for fans to watch the live broadcast in the chill zone, then cheer on their favourites as they pass close by the race village, before going back to the televisions for the second half of the stage and eventually welcoming the teams across the finish.

Stage 7

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Lourensford Wine Estate to Val de Vie Estate

Distance:      78km

Climbing:      2400m

Difficulty:      3.5 Stars

The Trail to Val de Vie
The Grand Finale is no easy ride to Val de Vie. Rather it is a rite of passage that has been hard-earned over eight days of limit-testing racing on the Western Cape’s Untamed trails. The 78-kilometre-long Stage 7 takes in 2 400 metres of climbing, making it one of the toughest Grand Finales in Epic history. Beginning with a grind to the Lourensford Nek there is climbing from the gun, before thrilling singletracks lead teams through Mont Marie, Eden, G-Spot and the Stellenbosch World Cup Course. Then Botmaskop provides the second major test of the day and the final significant climb of the 2023 race. Banhoek and Boschendal’s famed trails then ensure that the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race ends on singletrack high, before the trails of Val de Vie provide a moment for reflection on the previous seven days.


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