Race Rewind: 2010 Absa Cape Epic
Without the need to reach a new town every
day, the Absa Cape Epic route could explore completely new territory in 2010.
The first stage started at the Diemersfontein wine estate outside Wellington,
heading in the direction of Ceres. Before the riders saw the overnight camp 115
kilometres away there would be some grinding vineyard climbs, forest
singletrack, and a pleasant descent of the Bainskloof pass on tar paid for in
sweat over the red gravel ascent of Kluytjieskraal. The camp was in a beautiful
setting on the edge of the Ceres Mountain Fynbos reserve, blurred by an
infamous 12-kilometre stretch of railway line that would see the bum clinic
stretched by an unprecedented number of serious chafe cases.
Riders during Stage 2 of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic
Nearly all the pain disappeared as Stage 2 explored
the purpose-built singletracks of the Eselfontein farm – approximately 90
kilometres with 1 625 metres of climbing in twisty, rocky, foresty, sandy
heaven! Ceres lies in a valley surrounded by mountains and the route designer
recovered his evil streak somewhat as Stage 3 took the riders on a 118
kilometre loop of the surrounding foothills with most of the 1 720 metres of
climbing promised for the day crammed into the first 40 kilometres. The
temperature soared above 40 degrees Celsius by mid-morning and the flat-ish run
to the finish was nixed by long stretches of loose sand.
A new camp in
Worcester lay 86 kilometres away on the horizon for Stage 4 and a relatively
flat start meant that much of the climbing was lumped together, but with a time
trial “rest” day waiting for those who were not racing, they could pace
themselves and enjoy the scenery. The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden
formed a dramatic backdrop for the time trial scheduled for Stage 5, but the
cyclists saw more of the Brandwacht mountain than the succulent plants that
grow there because the route managed to notch up an impressive 860 metres of
climbing over just 27 kilometres.
Riders enjoying Stage 4
Stage 6 would leave the arid regions behind
and head for the Oak Valley farm, 123 kilometres away. Wind and water go
together, and although they weren’t climbing, the riders had to work hard to
stay upright as they circled first Brandvlei and then the mighty
Theewaterskloof dam before heading for a new, gentler ascent of Groenlandberg
that became increasingly sandy and lumpy. With 2 160 metres of climbing in the
legs, the cyclists were a little too tired to whoop when they got to the
singletrack trails of Thandi and Oak Valley at the end of the day.
and Houwhoek are gourmet waypoints, but Stage 7 would instead find the
gradients of the Lebanon Highlands Plantation, which looked flat when
Dassenberg’s sandy angles presented themselves among the 2 160 metres of
altitude gained on the day. The riders then had to pay penance for not
appreciating the Oak Valley singletrack a day earlier by riding it again as a
short day became rather long.
The lead pack during Stage 8
Now the Lourensford wine farm and the promise of
at least a few days without buttock plasters lay just 65 kilometres and 1 640
metres if climbing away, but first there were some sights to see in the
Hottentots Holland mountains. Climbs impress, but dowhills blooming with
boulders and ruts are harder to walk, the riders concluded as they pedalled
through the sweeping tracks towards the noise of the finish line and the end of
an eventful journey.