UPDATED FOR 2021! Cape Epic 2020: Route Revealed

Taking in 647 kilometres and 15 550 metres of climbing it will challenge and reward on the trails from Cape Town to Val de Vie.

Bicycling Editors |


The 2021 Absa Cape Epic, from 17-24 October, follows the same rout as the cancelled 2020 route laid out in this article, originally posted prior to that cancellation..

From the 15th to the 22nd of March 2020 the Absa Cape Epic will provide 1 300 mountain bikers with their toughest mountain bike challenge of the year. Rugged mountain passes and rocky singletrack ascents though pristine fynbos await. As do sandy farm roads, between manicured orchards, and bone-rattling descents off ancient mountain ranges. This is the race that measures all on an untamed route, proudly brought to you by Land Rover, the Official Vehicle and Route Partner.

Cape Epic 2020 is longer than 2019 but with less metres of vertical ascent, the 2020 route uses the rocky African hinterland to provide the major challenges. It is a course for the nimble mountain goats rather than the pure power machines. Expect punctures and mechanicals to have their say in the final general classification standings, as any moment of fatigue or undue risk could be punished severely. At 647 kilometres in length, with 15 550 metres of climbing, the bare numbers hide the true story.

Starting on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park the 2020 Absa Cape Epic provides a familiar introduction to the event during the Prologue. Then it is transfer time, driving north to Ceres ahead of Stage 1. Returning for the first time in a decade to the Western Cape’s deciduous fruit farming heartland and the famed Eselfontein trails. The opening marathon day sets the tone for the race, distance is rebuffed in favour of rugged technicality – it will be eight days in Land Rover heaven. Rocks, ruts, sand and off-camber corners fill the trails to Val de Vie.

The Queen Stage is early in the race, but Stage 2 is far from being head-and-shoulders more technical than the rest of the route. It explores the infamously tough Witzenberg Valley, a region where only the hard men and women of mountain biking thrive. Stage 3 continues the challenge, with a day back-loaded with climbing; including the race’s toughest ascent inside the final 20 kilometres of the day. The second moving stage, from Tulbagh to Wellington takes riders into a forgotten valley, into the Zuurvlakte.

Once in Wellington the trails become steeper and slightly smoother. The Wild Boar routes, which wind their way through the forested and fynbos covered slopes of the Groenberg and Hawequa mountains, provide much of the trills and many of the challenges too. Stage 5 is the steepest of the race, featuring 35 metres of elevation gain per kilometre, while Stage 6 is the penultimate and second longest of the race.

The Grand Finale takes riders from Wellington to Val de Vie for a fittingly glamourous finish to the World’s Premier Mountain Bike Stage Race. Reaching the last finish line is not easy however. The Trail to Val de Vie’s 66 hard kilometres provide a fittingly rugged end to the 2020 Absa Cape Epic and ensure that every finisher earns his or her place in the Book of Legend.

cape epic 2020
Photo by Justin Coomber/Cape Epic


Sunday, 15 March
Distance: 20km
Climbing: 600m
Start Location: University of Cape Town
Finish Location: University of Cape Town

Table of the Cape
Cape Town’s iconic flat mountain provides fast and technical, at times, riding for the opening kilometres of the 2020 Absa Cape Epic, in Table Mountain National Park. Returning riders will be well briefed on what to expect; steep gradients heading both up and downhill, massive trail-side crowds and a flutter of pre-race butterflies. The race’s inaugural Land Rover Technical Terrain is provided by the now infamous Plum Pudding.

Stage 1

cape epic 2020
Monday, 16 March
Distance: 98km
Climbing: 1 800m
Start Location: Ceres
Finish Location: Ceres
Rating: 4 stars

Saddle Up

Not since 2013 has Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic dipped below the 100-kilometre mark. It is definitely no play-day though. Hard work lies ahead to harvest the rewards of the exceptional Eselfontein trails, home to some of the oldest purpose-built mountain biking trails in the country. The Pipeline descent is one of the newer additions to the farm’s trail network and serves as the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

Stage 2

Tuesday, 17 March
Distance: 94km
Climbing: 2 050m
Start Location: Ceres
Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh
Rating: 5 stars

Forgive My Sins
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. No quarter is given by Mother Nature in this fertile valley. For those strong enough not to require one, there are rewards around every kink in the trail. The Skurfberg singletrack climb, through sandstone massifs, provides a challenging entrance to the Witzenberg Valley and the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

Stage 3

Wednesday, 18 March
Distance: 88km
Climbing: 2 100m
Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh
Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Winter Summit
With two converging mountain ranges to explore, Stage 3 of the 2020 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 features the first Dimension Data Hotspot sprint, down the town’s 300 year old Church Street and arguably the toughest climb in the race. Assegaaibos, a section of virgin trail, provides the Land Rover Technical Terrain.

Stage 4

Thursday, 19 March
Distance: 101km
Climbing: 1 950m
Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh
Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington
Rating: 4 stars

The Forgotten Valley
After three days with precious few free kilometres the transition stage from Saronsberg, in Tulbagh, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Wellington campus appears on paper to be an easier day. The first 100-kilometre plus stage includes more asphalt than any other in the race. It is however anything but easy exploring one of the most truly untamed valleys in the Western Cape. A low range 4×4 worthy stretch of dual track, the Bull Run, is the designated Land Rover Technical Terrain.

Stage 5

Friday, 20 March
Distance: 85km
Climbing: 2 900m
Start Location: CPUT, Wellington
Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Only Way Is Up
Short and brutally steep, on exhausted legs, Stage 5 will be a major physical and psychological hurdle on the trail to Val de Vie. In the past stages like these have been dubbed play days, but there is little playful about this intense test. Challenging climbs are followed by white-knuckle singletrack descents. The Land Rover Technical Terrain – the Full Monty – cannot be ridden stripped of skill and wits so conserve energy for the stage’s last dance.

Stage 6

Saturday, 21 March
Distance: 95km
Climbing: 2 300m
Start Location: CPUT, Wellington
Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington
Rating: 4 stars

Into The Wild

A saw tooth profile is exactly what riders do not want to see come the penultimate day of the Absa Cape Epic. Riding through a private nature reserve the presence of zebra, eland, springbok and giraffe will serve as welcome distraction from aching legs. Rocky Horror mid-way through the stage features the most fearsome name of any Land Rover Technical Terrain in the race and proves the theory of nominative determinism.

Stage 7

Sunday, 22 March
Distance: 66km
Climbing: 1 850m
Start Location: CPUT, Wellington
Finish Location: Val de Vie
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Trail to Val de Vie

Between Wellington and Val de Vie lie a final 66 kilometres of Untamed mountain biking. A last test to ensure that no finisher’s medal is handed over without the realisation being driven home that it was hard-earned. Bone Rattler marks the 2020 Grand Finale’s Land Rover Technical Terrain, after which it is a relatively smooth ride through Val de Vie’s immaculate grounds and lawns and into the Book of Legend.

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