Start/Finish: Pezula Private Estate
In 2008, riders have the honour of competing in the very first prologue in the Absa Cape Epic’s history. The 17km circuit starts and finishes at Pezula Private Estate, taking riders into the Knysna forest and Kruisfontein (MTO Forestry) to compete for their seeding for the start of stage 1. The route is on fast forestry roads, with plenty of opportunity to pass slower riders.
Prologue video highlights
At the finish of the prologue
Stage 1: Knysna - George
Start: Knysna Waterfront
Finish: Saasveld Campus Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Once again a traditional start sees riders leave the beautiful coastal town of Knysna, up Simola Pass, a 3km climb with a 7% gradient. But this is only the first of many climbs. Riders then turn into the lush, indigenous forests. This route is as beautiful as it is demanding, with sharp climbs, slippery corners and heart-in-the-stomach descents through Homtini, Jubilee Creek nature reserve, and a technical descent through Katara forest. Riders then get onto stretches of the 7 passes route, with some deviations to tackle more rugged terrain, before reaching their first race village on the beautiful Saasveld Campus.
At the start of stage 1
Stage 1 highlights video
Stage 2: George - Calitzdorp
Start: Saasveld Campus Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Finish: Calitzdorp Spa
Stage 2 is arguably the hardest stage in the history of the Absa Cape Epic. The first big challenge of today is the Montague pass, 10km long with an altitude gain of almost 600metres. The next 65 km are relatively flat and fast flowing, with some loose tracks through Chandelier Game Reserve. The big challenge awaits at 102km – the assault of Gamkaberg, one of the many Cape Nature properties, but better described as 'Break-Back Mountain'! Cut-off time at water point 3 is 15h00 and riders who don't make this cut-off will be swept! What awaits is an extremely tough, 10km rocky climb, ascending 650 metres with 2 false peaks at the end. Take a moment to enjoy the majestic scenery. At speed it’s a 90min climb up to 1100m, midfielders and backenders need to prepare themselves for 2 hours plus. The high-stakes descent on the other side is scarier than the uphill and riders need to take caution! The last 15km to the Calitzdorp Spa are flat and fast and backenders will be racing to make the cut-off which will be extended to 18h00 on today’s stage!
Stage 2 highlights video
Stage 3: Calitzdorp - Riversdale
Start: Calitzdorp Spa
Finish: Langenhoven High School
With the painful memories of days 1 and 2 haunting their legs, riders are taken up a 13km steady drag up smooth dirt roads over Rooibergpass, gaining 600m of altitude, before a 70km/h descent into the valley. After some sharp rolling hills riders cross game country, where antelope, giraffe, leopard and caracal will watch the riders charge through. The terrain is tough. The rock formations are geologically fascinating as they are race threatening - if riders make a bad tire choice. Even after riders survive the punctures and the heat there is still a long slog on dirt road before the tarred Garcias pass takes the riders into Riversdale, for a hard-earned rest.
Stage 3 highlights video
Stage 4: Riversdale – Swellendam
Start: Langenhoven High School
Finish: Swellendam Primary School
The rolling hills through the farmlands will give the power riders a chance to ply their trade. Then come the big ones - 'Heartbreak One' (2.2km at 6%) and 'Heartbreak Two' (4.5 km at 7%). Riders pass through dairy country before heading into Grootvaderbosch and back into some lush forests again – a welcome shelter from the harsh sun. But there are more challenges to come - more climbing, technical descents and river crossings. A short tar section passes the historical mission village of Suurbraak – a town that is no stranger to the Absa Cape Epic and a festive water point with access for spectators. When the riders cross a weir it’s only 12km to home. But don’t be fooled. Watch out for the short climbs that steepen up to 14%, it takes longer than you’d expect to get into Swellendam.
Stage 4 highlights video
Stage 5: Swellendam – Bredasdorp
Start: Swellendam Primary School
Finish: Bredasdorp Municipal Sport Grounds
Just when it looks like an easy day on the smooth dirt roads, riders turn into about 20km of rough dual tracks of De Hoop Nature Reservewhere rocks and sand kill their momentum and their legs. But it’s worth it – riders get a magnificent reward – first class ocean vistsa as they crest the hills. Thorns and sharp rocks make tubeless tires highly recommended. This is a protected area forming part of the Cape Floral Kindgom. The reserve has 86 mammal species. Most notable are the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebuck, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional leopard. After the relative flatness riders face a steep tar climb out of the reserve, before heading back onto rugged terrain and an exhilarating downhill section. Then comes the long section across the windy plains and farmlands into Bredasdorp, so best find yourself a bunch and work together. The cut-off for this stage, which is the longest in the history of the Absa Cape Epic, has been extended to 18h00.
Stage 5 highlights video
Steves delight at completing stage 5
Stage 6: Bredasdorp – Hermanus
Start: Bredasdorp Municipal Sport Grounds
Finish: Hermanus Old Harbour
The start out of Bredasdorp sees fast gravel roads through the surrounding farmland. The big challenge but also the highlight of today is Salmonsdam Nature Reserve. It’s a 14km ascent from around 6% to 12% on rugged jeep track, winding its way through mountain fynbos. The views along the way, as well as the drop down towards the vineyards, are worth every effort. But the finish is still a long way away. And it’s not flat: the dirt roads quickly narrow and the riders will be hurting on the short sharp rises that kick up steeply before reaching Standord. The route is heading for the sea with a short beach section on hard sand, crossing the Kleinrivier river mouth before reaching the finish right in the heart of Hermanus.
Stage 6 highlights video
Detailed preparation for stage 7
Stage 7: Hermanus – Oak Valley / Elgin
Start: Hermanus Old Harbour
Finish: Oak Valley (NEW)
The last two stages are the shortest, but they are not easy! Almost immediately riders are faced with the steep tar ascent up rotary drive, granting riders scenic views back over the seaside town of Hermanus and Walker Bay. The route descends through Hamilton Russel and heads for Babilonstoring Nature Reserve, where sandy and rocky jeep tracks await. After crossing the R44 the next challenge awaits – a loose rocky climb gaining 500m in altitude up to Lebanon Nature Reserve. Then it is singletrack time through the Lebanon Trails. A quick dip under the N2 takes riders to some more fast-flowing singletrack on Paul Cluver Estate. Then riders wind their way up and down steep vineyards to their overnight stop at Oak Valley.
Stage 7 highlights video
Stage 8: Oak Valley / Elgin – Lourensford
Start: Oak Valley
Through the vineyards there are more short, jagged climbs. Then come the long steep climbs at Nuweberg. A fast descent takes riders to the Eikenhof Dam and the flat(ish) section to Gamtou Pass. Here, riders will be forced to portage their bikes for about a kilometre down slippery rocks that still bear the marks of the Voortrekker wagon wheels, not for their safety, but because the Gamtou pass is a national heritage site and special permission has been given to descend this historic track. After dropping onto the railway line for a fun, bumpy few kilometres, riders are entering the wine country and finally finish at the magnificent Lourensford Wine Estate.
Stage 8 highlights video