This year's eighth Absa Cape Epic, which starts on Sunday, will take 1,200 mountain bikers through vast tracts of virgin territory previously untouched by the South African stage race.
The new route covers 707km over eight days, with 14,550m of climbing. Stages will be held at Saronsberg (Tulbagh), Worcester and Oak Valley en route to the traditional finish at Lourensford Wine Estate.
Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, will again host the opening celebrations on 25 and 26 March, ahead of the 27km prologue in the Tokai Forest, part of Table Mountain National Park, on 27 March.
Race founder Kevin Vermaak said the Cape Epic had become an iconic endurance event. "Our route designer Leon Evans – or as he's best known among riders, Dr Evil – has again found the perfect balance between exciting trails, challenging terrain and wider vistas in the pursuit of the ultimate mountain biking experience," he said.
“Our aim is definitely not to make the route tougher each year just for the sake of it. We aim to offer participants from around the world an awesome trail that showcases the best that the Western Cape has to offer. We want new routes, with suitable technical and challenging riding, that take the riders to new towns while at the same time giving the riders the most beautiful and remote scenery, and with wild animals to boot."
- Prologue: Cape Town to Cape Town; 27km with 750m of climbing; tough climbs, fast descents and flowing singletrack.
- Stage 1: Saronsberg to Saronsberg (outside Tulbagh); 89km with 2,050m of climbing; mix of steep, rough and loose climbs, and treacherous, rocky descents.
- Stage 2: Saronsberg to Saronsberg; 104km and 2,300m of climbing; hard initial climb followed by long section through foothills and final wagon trail descent.
- Stage 3: Saronsberg to Worcester; 125km and 1,900m of climbing; steep, loose climb followed by rutted descent, then mix of smooth farm roads and rocky tracks, long uphill drag and final winding singletrack descent.
- Stage 4: Worcester to Worcester; 32km with 800m of climbing; time trial stage in semi-desert environment.
- Stage 5: Worcester to Oak Valley; 143km with 2,350m of climbing; longest stage in many years, with mix of fast open roads and tough climbs, finishing with singletrack descent.
- Stage 6: Oak Valley to Oak Valley; 128km with 2,700m of climbing; Loose, sandy climbs and lots of fun singletrack.
- Stage 7: Oak Valley to Lourensford; 59km with 1,700m of climbing; short but tough stage with a "a final few surprises".