The 2022 Absa Cape Epic serves all the suffering for mountain bikers seeking the ultimate XCO stage racing challenge.
Jaco Venter is a South African road riding pro, with a 4th place Giro d'Italia stage finish. He has ridden all three Grand Tours – the Tour de France, La Vuelta and Giro – but like most of his compatriots, the Cape Epic is destiny for the world's best riders.
With his career transitioning from road to off-road, Jaco has used his knowledge of South Africa riding conditions and challenges to create a Trek Supercaliber for the Cape Epic. With its IsoStrut rear suspension and only 60mm of travel, the Supercaliber is as close to hardtail efficiency as you are likely to see at the Cape Epic.
Experienced riders of the world’s ‘untamed’ stage race know that fatigue can become debilitating after a few days.
Rolling hundreds of miles on rocky trails and corrugated gravel roads will humble even the most robust hardtail rider. This makes a bike like Trek’s Supercaliber, with its very short-travel rear-end, a popular option. Especially if you are a lightweight rider with tidy line choice down those rocky descents.
New Schwalbes out in the open
Although Jaco’s premium specification Supercaliber might look broadly familiar to Trek brand followers, there are some notable component details.
As with anything Trek, Bontrager wheels and tires are expected, but Jaco has chosen to mount Schwalbe prototype tires on his Kovee carbon rims.
These Schwalbe tires are an evolved version of the German brand’s Racing Ray (front) and Racing Ralph (rear). Casing size is unspecified, but the gumwall tires carry Schwalbe’s Super Race designation. That means a blend of tri- and dual-layer carcass construction, with a thin RaceGuard puncture protection strip.
Beyond trick tires, Jaco’s emergency tire reinflation tactics are supported by two strategically taped CO2 canisters – tire cuts and punctures can strike at any moment.
Managing the flat tire risk
The local terrain is extremely rocky in places, with sharp shale edges on descents. Add African-specification thorns and punctures become a genuine issue. Nino Schurter, as an example, has struggled with numerous punctures since the Prologue at this year’s Cape Epic.
Jaco prefers having CO2 canisters at the ready, taped underneath the top tube and below his RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post’s sanction collar. Fumbling in jersey pockets for that CO2 unit when you are suffering rapid deflation is a typical Cape Epic newbie mistake.
With a full SRAM Eagle AXS drivetrain and wireless dropper, Jaco has also opted for RockShox suspension on his Supercaliber, instead of Fox. Controlling the fork and shock lockout function is a twin-cable RockShox module.
Powering-up and slowing down
Power meters are crucial at the Cape Epic, especially with riders having to contend with extreme heat and managing their performance thresholds.
Jaco uses a German Power2Max meter and South African sourced cSixx chainring. The latest Power2Max NG, rated as one of the best MTB power meter, combines dual-sided data sourcing and left/right balance software. It also has temperature compensation, ideal for the Cape Epic, where temperatures have soared in the early stages.
Giving Jaco control on those challenging descents are SRAM Level Ultimate brakes.
The calipers might only be a two-piston configuration, but few Cape Epic riders require the potency of a four-piston brake. The single caliper helps save weight, which is always the goal, the Level Ultimate carbon levers also help trim grams without sacrificing brake feel or performance.
Tech Specs: Jaco Venter's Trek Supercaliber
- Frame: Trek Supercaliber
- Fork: RockShox SID Ultimate
- Handlebar: Bontrager RSL MTB Bar/Stem
- Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Dropper post: RockShox Reverb AXS
- Wheels: Bontrager Kovee
- Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ray (front), Racing Ralph (rear) prototypes