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2021 Absa Cape Epic: Everything you need to know

Stage 2 of the 2021 Absa Cape Epic
(Image credit: 2021 Cape Epic / © Kelvin Trautman)

First staged in 2004, the Absa Cape Epic is considered the toughest mountain bike stage race on Earth, attracting the best mountain bikers from around the world competing across five categories. Referred to as the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, it's the only MTB stage race accredited as hors catégorie (beyond categorization) by the UCI. Apart from competing in teams of two riders, what makes the race unique is that amateurs ride alongside professionals on the same route - a route that averages 700km and 16,000m of vertical ascent over eight grueling days.

Now in its 18th year, the 2020 edition of the race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled from March to October, to accommodate the stringent lockdown protocols as stipulated by the South African government. An Olympic year and positioning at the end of a busy mountain bike season has ultimately thinned the international field for the 2021 Absa Cape Epic. 2019 winner's Nino Schurter and Lars Forster as well as many other high-profile competitors might be absent but the competition is still fierce with current UCI Marathon World Champion Andreas Seewald of Canyon Northwave MTB, 2016 winner Urs Huber (Team Bulls), 2020 UCI XCO World Champion Jordan Sarrou and women's 2021 UCI Short Track World Champion Sina Frei all present.

We've been covering the 2021 edition of the Absa Cape Epic in detail with daily stage recaps, features and pro bike deep dives, which you can scroll through below.

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Cape Epic Prologue

The Cape Epic Prologue saw some aggressive racing straight out the gate (Image credit: Nick Muzik)
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Cape Epic Prologue

The prologue gives riders a sample of whats in store on the Cape Epic (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

The Cape Epic had an unusual wet start (Image credit: Kelvin Trautman)
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Cape Epic Prologue

There are plenty of riders adorned with rainbow stripes at this years Cape Epic (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

There are a few WorldTour pros on course as well (Image credit: Kelvin Trautman)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Trails are technical and grueling (Image credit: Nick Muzik)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Riders pass through the remote and beautiful South African countryside (Image credit: Kelvin Trautman)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Stage 1 kicked off with riders keen to make a mark of the first proper stage (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Women embark on stage 1 (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

It was back to classic Cape Epic dusty conditions (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Sina Frei and Laura Stigger set a dominating pace (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Big climbs offered opportunities for teams to make moves in the race (Image credit: Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Stage 2 and riders were back racing in the open expanses (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

91-songo-Specialized's Sina Frei and Laura Stigger continued to put the hammer down (Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

The terrain would continue to test riders skills and fitness (Image credit: Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

It would be the Old Wagon Trail descent that decided Stage 2 for the men (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

A stage win for Sarrou and Beers (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

The weather was hot and the racing hotter as the riders set off for Stage three (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Chances to cool off were few and far between (Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

The floating bridge made for an interesting section of the course (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Steep climbs of Stage Three punished riders (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Sina Frei and Laura Stigger continued their winning ways (Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic)
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Cape Epic Prologue

Team Canyon Northwave took an important stage victory and reduced the time gap to current GC leaders NinetyOne-songo-Specialized (Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)

Stage information

Prologue: 20km and 600m, Table Mountain, Sunday 17 October
Stage 1: 98km and 1850m, Ceres, Monday 18 October
Stage 2: 96km and 2100m, Ceres - Saronsberg, Tuesday 19 October
Stage 3: 91km and 2100m, Saronsberg, Wednesday 20 October
Stage 4: 73km and 1750m, Saronsberg - Slanghoek, Thursday 21 October
Stage 5: 84km and 2900m, Wellington - Wellington, Friday 22 October
Stage 6: 90km and 2300m, Wellington - Wellington, Saturday 23 October
Stage 7: 68km and 1850m, Wellington - Val de Vie, Sunday 24 October

Race coverage

Pro bikes

News

Aaron Borrill

Aaron is Bike Perfect's Tech editor. As the former gear editor of Bicycling magazine and associate editor of TopCar magazine, he has tons of experience writing about bikes or anything with wheels for that matter. He's tested thousands of cars and bicycles, all over the world. A competitive racer and Stravaholic, he’s twice ridden the Cape Epic, raced nearly every MTB stage race in South Africa and completed the Haute Route Alps. Recently, he has also taken up Zwift racing and competes at the highest level of eRacing, the ZRL Premier Division. When not riding, racing or testing bicycles in and around the UK's Surrey Hills where he now lives, he's writing about them for Cyclingnews and Bike Perfect


Rides: Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura Ace Rim, Cannondale Supersix Evo Disc, Cannondale SuperSlice Disc TT, Trek Procaliber 9.9 MTB 

Height: 176cm

Weight: 61.5kg


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