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Elite riders hail Absa Cape Epic initiatives


The Absa Cape Epic wishes its female competitors a special Women’s Day … and will be introducing more initiatives to make their category compelling.

In recent years there has been a major emphasis on the Women’s category, with prize money being increased to equal the men and a special start group for the elite women among the race’s initiatives.

“We’ll be making an announcement on another important initiative for the Women’s category at the Route Launch on September 19,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Sarah Harrop. “In the meantime strength to them all – and all women – on this Women’s Day.”

The recent initiatives, mostly taken after feedback from professional women riders, have been warmly welcomed.

Top Absa Cape Epic competitor and South African marathon champion Robyn de Groot feels the new start group had played a significant role: “Yes, It certainly has! It made the racing more competitive and fair for the elite women’s teams. Sure, our days potentially became longer by not being able to race amongst the men but it has created the opportunity for a fair playing ground for us all, and has made for some really exciting women’s racing in the past two years.”

South African Mariske Strauss, who finished second in this year’s Cape Epic with partner Annie Last of the United Kingdom, is also upbeat about the racing: “ Actually, I think it has led to the most exciting racing we have seen in the women’s field to date. We now find that we can actually race properly, it has changed the whole dynamics of the event for us. Previously it was more like try and sit with a strong male team and then that usually determines who wins … or you’d work your butt off to get away from the other female teams just to find that a male bunch just pulled the rest of the female teams back to you.”

They also believed the incentives had improved the quality of the women’s field.

“It is alway great to see other top females from across the world take part and this definitely has lifted the quality and depth of racing we get in our beloved country,” comments Strauss. “I have to take this opportunity to thank the whole Cape Epic team for making this happen – it gives our local racers the opportunity to go head-to-head against the best in the world and helps us to progress.”

“Each year new teams or combinations of riders add to the dynamic of the race, so yes this has a huge effect on the quality of the racing,” says De Groot. “Over the years the Cape Epic has attracted world class female mountain bikers, it has attracted the best of the best and I really hope that more and more of the high profile female mountain bikers come and race the event in the future. It makes for exciting racing by adding more depth and in so doing also improves the quality of our mountain biking here in South Africa.”

She adds that the publicity generated by the world’s foremost mountain bike stage race “certainly has an influence on raising awareness and raising the profiles of women riders”.

“The Cape Epic places a huge emphasis on publicity and media in general, and also makes a concerted effort to run specific highlights for the Women’s Category … both locally and internationally. These are really important factors for our livelihood as athletes, and for our sponsors who invest a lot of money into our professions and the industry. We are always very grateful for the way the Cape Epic handles the professional side of mountain biking.”

Strauss adds: “At this year’s event I could see the effort behind this and it makes such a difference for the female racers. At the end of the day our sponsors need to get the return on investment, otherwise there would be no point in investing in the sport. This can only happen if we actually get the airtime, which we did. So thank you, and keep up the good work.”

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