Sunday, January 29, 2006

2006 Cape Epic Course

2006 Cape Epic Route Unveiled
A coastal route for the first time...

Finally what 1000 mountain bikes from around the world have been waiting for… the route and stage locations for Cape Epic 2006 have been announced! The route is longer than any previous Epic – a total of 921km and an altitude gain of 16605m – twice the height of Mount Everest!

The inaugural race in 2004 was 803km and 901km in 2005. Although the route is longer than it was in 2005, it should not make the race any tougher than it was in 2005. This is because in 2005 a lot of the altitude gain was on very technical stony tracks that forced many riders to dismount and was generally more taxing than climbing on the faster gravel roads and jeep tracks that are prevalent in the 2006 stages. We also suspect that the overall times will be faster than they were in 2005. This is due to an even more competitive field of riders and also the terrain is generally faster than in 2005.

For the first time the Cape Epic will visit 2 seaside resorts namely Mossel Bay and Hermanus (besides the sea-side town of Knysna which has traditionally been the start location). When designing the route, we have 3 general areas to choose from, namely north of the mountain ranges and in the semi desert of the Little Karoo; in the foothills of the mountains between the N2 highway and the Cape mountain ranges; and the flatter coastal area between the Indian Ocean and the N2 highway. (The N2 highway is the main arterial road that connects Cape Town to Knysna.)

The 2004 route took the riders on many kilometres through the Little Karoo and the 2005 route took the riders between the N2 and the Cape Mountains. The 2006 route is more coastal and our plans for 2007 are to take the route back through the Little Karoo (i.e. hot and dry). If the weather plays along, the coastal towns of Mossel Bay and Hermanus will provide perhaps the most stunning stage locations yet of the Cape Epic, with the Race Villages and finishes within meters of the warm-water Indian Ocean.

Possibly the most exciting aspect of the route for 2006 is that the longest, toughest, and definitely the most magical stage in the history Epic is the second last stage of the race: the 142km, 3750m altitude gain Stage 7 from Hermanus to Boschendal Wine Estate. This very long penultimate stage will have implications to both professional and amateur riders alike.
Firstly, for the top pro riders that are competing for podium places, this means that the race can be won or lost right up until day 7. In Cape Epic 2005, Olympic champion Bart Brentjens and top-ranked UCI rider Roel Paulissen of Team Giant achieved a 10-minute lead after the first stage and simply protected this lead for the rest of the race to finish overall winners. The second placed team in stage one, Siemens Cannondale team of Christoph Sauser and Fredrik Kessiakoff, also protected their position to finish second overall as hard as they tried to overtake Team Giant.
Protecting a position may not be as easy in 2006 with the penultimate stage of the race being so long. A good or a bad ride for a top team on day 7 may see a re-shuffle in the general classification with just one stage to go.

For many of the amateur riders, the introduction of such a long stage at the end of the race will have a significant psychological impact on the personal challenge to finish the race. In previous years, the toughest stages were within the first 4 days of the race, and therefore riders felt that if they had finished the first half of the race, barring a serious incident, they were home and dry to complete the entire Cape Epic. Now that the toughest stage is only at day 7, riders will have to keep plenty of reserve energy for day 7 in order to be confident of completing what is for many of them the toughest physical challenge in their lives.

The 2006 route will once again pass through many game farms and nature reserves. The highlight will be the 10km stretch through Botlierskop on day 2. Botlierskop is a Big 5 game reserve and riders can expect to see many animals including the Big 5 through this stretch of excellent jeep-track riding. The Cape Epic team rode through the reserve in June and saw a herd of elephants just off the track and numerous varieties of antelope.


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