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The 2020 Absa Cape Epic, in partnership with Land Rover, will be a mountain bike race that measures all thanks to a rugged and untamed route. Taking in 647km and 15,550m of climbing from Cape Town to Val de Vie, next year’s race will challenge as much as it rewards.

From the 15 to 22 March, 2020 the Absa Cape Epic will provide 1 300 mountain bikers with their toughest mountain bike challenge of the year. Rugged mountain passes and rocky singletrack ascents though pristine fynbos await. As do sandy farm roads between manicured orchards, and bone-rattling descents off ancient mountain ranges. This is the race that measures all on an untamed route, proudly brought to you by Land Rover, the Official Vehicle and Route Partner.

“Land Rover is proud to partner the Absa Cape Epic yet again,” said Tina Pienaar-Smit, Jaguar Land Rover South Africa PR and Sponsorship Specialist. “Mountain biking and Land Rover go hand-in-hand. The class-leading off-road capabilities of our vehicles is a perfect match for the world’s toughest mountain bike race. They don’t call this the Epic for nothing!

“As usual Land Rover will field its own team at the Absa Cape Epic, and though we have yet to announce our riders I can say Team Land Rover will comprise strong adventure athletes, pro sportsmen and some past favourites including a Last Lion and Lioness.”

A longer total distance than 2019 but with less vertical ascent, the 2020 route uses the rocky African hinterland to provide the major challenges. It is, after all, a course more suited to a 4×4 vehicle than human-powered machines. Expect punctures and mechanicals to have their say in the final general classification standings, as any moment of fatigue or undue risk could be punished severely.

Starting on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park the 2020 Absa Cape Epic provides a familiar introduction to the event during the Prologue. Then it’s transfer time, driving north to Ceres ahead of Stage 1. For the first time in a decade the route returns to the Western Cape’s deciduous fruit farming heartland and the famed Eselfontein trails. The opening marathon day sets the tone for the race with rugged technical sections – eight days of Land Rover heaven. Rocks, ruts, sand and off-camber corners fill the trails to Val de Vie.

The Queen Stage is early in the race, but Stage 2 explores the infamously tough Witzenberg Valley – a region where only the hard men and women of mountain biking thrive. Stage 3 continues the challenge with a day loaded with climbing, including the race’s toughest ascent inside its final 20km. The second moving stage, from Tulbagh to Wellington takes riders into a forgotten valley in the Zuurvlakte.

Once in Wellington the trails become steeper and slightly smoother. The Wild Boar routes, which wind their way through the forested and fynbos-covered slopes of the Groenberg and Hawequa mountains, provide much of the thrills and many of the challenges. Stage 5 is the steepest of the race, featuring 35m of elevation gain per kilometre, while Stage 6 is the penultimate and second longest of the race.

The grand finale takes riders from Wellington to Val de Vie for a fittingly glamourous finish to the world’s premier stage race. Reaching the last finish line is, however, not easy. The trail to Val de Vie’s 66 hard kilometres provides a fittingly rugged end to the 2020 Absa Cape Epic and ensure that every finisher earns his or her place in the Book of Legend.

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Prologue – Table of the Cape

Cape Town’s iconic flat mountain provides fast and technical, at times, riding for the opening kilometres of the 2020 Absa Cape Epic, in Table Mountain National Park. Returning riders will be well briefed on what to expect; steep gradients heading both up and downhill, massive trail-side crowds and a flutter of pre-race butterflies. The race’s inaugural Land Rover Technical Terrain is provided by the now infamous Plum Pudding.

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Sunday, 15 March

Distance: 20km

Climbing: 600m

Start Location: University of Cape Town

Finish Location: University of Cape Town

Stage 1 – Saddle Up

Not since 2013 has Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic dipped below the 100-kilometre mark. It is definitely no play-day though. Hard work lies ahead to harvest the rewards of the exceptional Eselfontein trails, home to some of the oldest purpose-built mountain biking trails in the country. The Pipeline descent is one of the newer additions to the farm’s trail network and serves as the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

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Monday, 16 March

Distance: 98km

Climbing: 1,800m

Start Location: Ceres

Finish Location: Ceres

Rating: 4 stars

Stage 2 – Forgive My Sins

The Witzenberg Valley is undoubtedly one of mountain biking’s most challenging playgrounds making Stage 2 a fitting holder for the title of Queen Stage. Sheets of sandstone provide the ultimate testing ground for man, woman and of course machine. No quarter is given by Mother Nature in this fertile valley. For those strong enough not to require one, there are rewards around every kink in the trail. The Skurfberg singletrack climb, through sandstone massifs, provides a challenging entrance to the Witzenberg Valley and the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

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Tuesday, 17 March

Distance: 94km

Climbing: 2,050m

Start Location: Ceres

Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Rating: 5 stars

Stage 3 ­– The Winter Summit

With two converging mountain ranges to explore, Stage 3 of the 2020 Absa Cape Epic is not short on climbing. Nestled in the nook between the Groot Winterhoek and the Witzenberg Ranges the Tulbagh Valley is not hasty to reveal its rewards. The stage features the first Dimension Data Hotspot sprint, down the town’s 300 year old Church Street and arguably the toughest climb in the race. Assegaaibos, a section of virgin trail, provides the Land Rover Technical Terrain.

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Wednesday, 18 March

Distance: 88km

Climbing: 2,100m

Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Rating: 4.5 stars

Stage 4 ­– Forgotten Valley

After three days with precious few free kilometres the transition stage from Saronsberg, in Tulbagh, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Wellington campus appears on paper to be an easier day. The first 100-kilometre plus stage includes more asphalt than any other in the race. It is however anything but easy exploring one of the most truly untamed valleys in the Western Cape. A low range 4×4 worthy stretch of dual track, the Bull Run, is the designated Land Rover Technical Terrain.

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Thursday, 19 March

Distance: 101km

Climbing: 1,950m

Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4 stars

Stage 5 – The Only Way Is Up

Short and brutally steep, on exhausted legs, Stage 5 will be a major physical and psychological hurdle on the trail to Val de Vie. In the past stages like these have been dubbed play days, but there is little playful about this intense test. Challenging climbs are followed by white-knuckle singletrack descents. The Land Rover Technical Terrain – the Full Monty – cannot be ridden stripped of skill and wits so conserve energy for the stage’s last dance.

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Friday, 20 March

Distance: 85km

Climbing: 2,900m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4.5 stars

Stage 6 – Into The Wild

A saw tooth profile is exactly what riders do not want to see come the penultimate day of the Absa Cape Epic. Riding through a private nature reserve the presence of zebra, eland, springbok and particularly giraffe will serve as welcome distraction from aching legs. Rocky Horror mid-way through the stage features the most fearsome name of any Land Rover Technical Terrain in the race and proves the theory of nominative determinism.

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Saturday, 21 March

Distance: 95km

Climbing: 2,300m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4 stars

Stage 7 – The Trail to Val de Vie

Between Wellington and Val de Vie lie a final 66 kilometres of Untamed mountain biking. A last test to ensure that no finisher’s medal is handed over without the realisation being driven home that it was hard-earned. Bone Rattler marks the 2020 Grand Finale’s Land Rover Technical Terrain, after which it is a relatively smooth ride through Val de Vie’s immaculate grounds and lawns and into the Book of Legend.

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Sunday, 22 March

Distance: 66km

Climbing: 1,850m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: Val de Vie

Rating: 3.5 stars

Follow the Land Rover team on social media using the #UnstoppableSpirit hashtag @LandRoverZA.