The Absa Cape Epic delivers yet again with one of the most riveting performances from both the men’s and the ladies’ fields in the 2023 edition where there was some hot racing in some unseasonably cold and wet weather. One thing we have learnt through the years is that the Epic isn’t over until it’s over! This was the case with both the Ciovita Yellow Jersey and Orange Jersey wearers (men’s and ladies GC leaders respectively).
Despite starting the first stage in Hermanus in the Yellow Leader’s Jerseys after a fast paced Prologue, Matt Beers (SA Marathon Champ) and partner Christopher Blevins from the US had a disastrous first stage, where Blevins suffered from extreme cramping and they limped to the finish 8 minutes behind the new leaders, Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht of Switzerland. Meanwhile, Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield, a team that was thrown together the week before the Epic as both SA riders had lost their partners to injury and illness shortly before the race, managed to put 5 minutes into the Leaders from the prologue on their first stage, despite Wakefield suffering a major cut to her bicep towards the start of the stage.
While both of these time gaps may have seemed big enough to hold for the next 6 days, the Absa Cape Epic isn’t called ‘The Race That Measures All’ for nothing. An unbelievable race unfolded throughout the week, seeing a tenacious Lill and Wakefield hold onto the Orange Jerseys until the penultimate stage, where a major mechanical forced the already injured Wakefield to ride on her rim for eight gruelling kilometres, losing them 30 minutes and the Orange Jerseys. This after Wakefield had stubbornly refused to quit even after undergoing reconstructive surgery on the deep wound in her bicep after Stage 1, having only 4 hours of sleep that night, and riding in excruciating pain due to the drug regulations on most painkillers, not to mention having had several operations to remove gallstones shortly before the race. This pair rode their way into our hearts and even though they couldn’t make up their time deficit on the last day and finished in Second Overall, they really made us proud and have inspired us all to keep overcoming life’s many challenges with a positive attitude.
Beers and Blevins put on a solid and consistent performance throughout the week taking a further 4 Stage wins, and slowly chipping away at their GC deficit. On the Queen’s Stage the defending champions, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company (Georg Egger and Lukas Baum), managed to take the Yellow Jerseys from Schurter and Frischknecht, the first time they were able to race in the coveted jerseys, as they only took the lead on the final stage last year. However, the Yellow Jersey is a heavy one to race in and this was proved when a piece of wire caught in Baum’s derailleur, forcing them to ride back to the tech zone to replace it, losing them the jerseys for the final stage. While Schurter and Frischknecht rode the last stage in Yellow, both the ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company boys and Beers and Blevins managed to ride away from them and put in enough time for Beers and Blevins to take the Overall victory and Egger and Baum to take the Grand Finale Stage win. Beers is the second South African to win two Cape Epic titles, the legendary Burry Stander being the first.
If the Cape Epic FOMO has hit you as hard as it hit us, you may want to use the same treatment as we are, namely entering the Oak Valley 24h MTB race, where you get to ride nothing but the best trails included in the Epic, on repeat, for 24h! If that sounds too daunting, you can do one of the shorter options or put together a relay team! What are you waiting for? Get entered now!