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Jerseys and Trophies of the Absa Cape Epic

From the yellow to the purple to the green, the leader jerseys are a statement of superiority. Whether worn for just one stage or awarded for an overall victory, the mountain bikers who carry these on their shoulders are champion riders and deserving of great respect.There are five categories: Men, Women, Mixed, Masters and Grand Masters. There are also three special jerseys, namely the Exxaro jersey - which is awarded to the leading development team - and the Men’s and Women’s Absa African jerseys, awarded to the leading men’s and women’s all-african teams respectively. The jersey leaders are decided by totalling the time each team takes on the daily stages. The team with the lowest overall time at the end of each stage receives leaders jerseys and the right to start the next stage of the race in those jerseys.

At the end of eight days of gruelling racing, the winners of each category and special jersey races are awarded a trophy to match the grandeur of their achievement. Each trophy has been meticulously designed by a respected artist.  

 

Men's Category

The yellow zebra jersey is worn by the overall leading team in the Men’s category and the team in yellow after the full eight days of racing is the overall winner of the Absa Cape Epic. Over and above the global trend of cycling leaders wearing yellow, as set by The Tour de France in 1919, the yellow zebra jersey signifies courage and strength, and is the most visible of the colour spectrum.

The category attracts elite mountain bikers from around the world and showcases the best that the sport has to offer. Competitors have included Olympic gold medallists, current and former world champions and top-ranked marathon and cross country mountain bike professionals.

The Men’s trophy was created by celebrated South African artist Niël Jonker and awarded to the winning team for the first time in 2010. For the trophy Niël took his inspiration from the original Cape Epic logo, which included Zebra stripes, a mountain biker and the colours of the South African flag. The sculpture is cast in solid bronze and mounted on a block of Assegai timber, the trophy stands 37cm high and weighs 8,2kgs.

The winners of the floating trophy receive a mini replica also cast in bronze and presented in a box made from zebra skin and calf leather. Details about that year’s race, including distance, climbing and date, are inscribed on a small brass plaque.

 

Women's Category

The orange jersey is worn by the leading team in the Women’s category and the team in orange after the full eight days of racing is the winner of the Women’s category. The orange jersey represents enthusiasm, determination, attraction to excellence, and success.

UCI points begun being awarded in the Women’s category from 2012 and in 2014 the category prize purse was boosted to equal that of the men. From 2016 UCI Women’s teams would start in a separate batch after the UCI Men, which served once again to sharpen the competition in the category. Olympic medallists, current and former world champions and the world’s top women marathon racers have contested the distinctive orange jersey.

The current Women’s trophy, designed by award-winning young Cape Town sculptor, Isabel Mertz, is in fact the second Women’s trophy to be awarded to the winners of the Women’s category of the Cape Epic. The first Women’s trophy was introduced in 2012 to coincide with the women’s race being awarded Hors Catégorie (beyond categorisation) status by the UCI and the introduction of the new African cog logo for the Absa Cape Epic. The current trophy includes bronze stones which represent the rough and unforgiving terrain that riders must overcome. It includes two stones placed on top of each other, symbolising team work between the teams of two riders. The shape of the cast bronze ‘branches’ curling around the stones are based on the structure of an adrenaline molecule, emphasising the endurance aspect of the Cape Epic.

The sculpture is mounted on wood from an African fig tree: in African mythology figs and fig trees are symbols of fertility and femininity. The Women’s trophy is the first trophy to be designed by a female artist and the foundry in which it was cast is also exclusively used by women. 

 

Dimension Data Masters Category

The race for the blue Dimension Data Masters category jersey has evolved to become nearly as fierce as that for the overall victory. The blue jersey symbolises loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence and is associated with inner strength and stability.

Both team members in this category must be 40 years or older on 31 December of the year in which the race takes place. World champions, ex-Tour de France riders and veterans of the world’s pro circuits have battled it out for bragging rights in this category. The winners routinely finish within the top 20 of the field.

The likely winners of the Dimension Data Masters category at the Absa Cape Epic will have been presented with many trophies in their time: World Championship colours, Tour de France winner’s crystal, Olympic gold medals. Now these stars will race for a trophy designed by a son of one of the regions the Absa Cape Epic has visited during its 15 years. Willie Bester was born in Montagu where he first showed his artistic talent as a 10-year-old when designing elaborate wire cars. Bester, whose work has demonstrated expressions of the struggle for freedom in South Africa, is an internationally renowned artist with a reputation for his innovative use of a vast array of materials found in scrap yards and around.

He has taken his inspiration for the Dimension Data Masters trophy from Picasso, the legendary Spanish artist. Bester has breathed new life into a humble bicycle saddle, bestowing it with character and strength, embracing the untamed ethos of the Absa Cape Epic.

 

Grand Masters Category

The distinctive purple jersey was introduced in 2013 and has proved to be highly competitive category, with several teams vying for the top spot. To compete in this category both team members must be over 50 years of age. The winners of this category also frequently feature in the top 20 of the field, proving that they still have what it takes to mix it up in the front. The purple jersey symbolises mastery, creativity, dignity and intellect, and is closely associated with royalty.

Sculptor Guy du Toit’s inspiration when creating the trophy for the winners of the Grand Masters category was to envelope himself in the ethos and experience of riders over 50 years old: mastery, wisdom, dignity and intellect and inner strength.Du Toit, himself in his late 50s, has created a timeless trophy that speaks to the past, future and present of those who compete for it.

The trophy is a wheel or a circle with a cycle spoor running deep on the outside, with a texture that celebrates the Western Cape landscape. The choice of the circle was informed by the fact that the dot is one of the most potent design elements and is endless, which is suggestive of the Grand Master's journey. The circle functions as a lens, looking both back at that which has gone before and that which is to come.

The trophy is cast in bronze and has, appropriately enough for the Grand Masters, an antique patina.

 

Virgin Active Mixed Category

The male/female combination adds a different dynamic to racing the Absa Cape Epic, and the race for the dark green Virgin Active Mixed category jerseys has proved to be strongly contested. Many of the world’s top riders have competed in this category. The green jersey symbolises balance and harmony, creating equilibrium between the head and the heart in the face of adversity.

Rina Stutzer, the artist behind the trophy for the winners of the Virgin Active Mixed category, found inspiration for her creation from her personal relationship with the Absa Cape Epic. She has followed two races from start to finish as a supporter of her partner and friends. For Stutzer, the spirit of the Epic is irrepressible.

Her design has focused on the ascent, an aspect that, for many, is the essence of the race. It is the climb that challenges the athletes, taking them to a world unseen to complete a journey of self-discovery and mutual awareness. As the Virgin Active Mixed Category is one in which team members must find the perfect balance and harmony between strengths and weaknesses, both mental and physical, Stutzer has depicted the poetic beauty of a winding, steep incline with a thin sliver of a path that is dotted with riders winding their way to the top.

The trophy is designed around the route to the top of the mountain or the end of the race, a chosen path where the team can consciously commit themselves to expand and transform with every level of ascension. 

 

The Exxaro Special Jersey

In 2012 the first Exxaro MTB Academy riders joined the race and became a catalyst for introducing historically disadvantaged South African’s to the sport of mountain biking. The Exxaro Jersey is awarded to the top historically disadvantaged South African team where both riders are under the age of 26. In recent years the number of competitors for this jersey has mushroomed.

Exxaro Jersey

Exxaro Resources is a South African mining company which has been the main corporate sponsor of transformation at the Absa Cape Epic, if not in all of South African mountain biking. It is therefore appropriate that its name is enshrined in the trophy that is awarded to the winners of the Exxaro Development special jersey. 

Exxaro introduced the special jersey race-within-a-race to the Absa Cape Epic in 2012 and the trophy two years later. Lwandiso Njara, protégé of acclaimed sculptor Angus Taylor, designed the trophy to resemble the transformation and progression of two ordinary young potential stars from the township into dedicated, victorious, mountain bikers. All the materials used in the sculpture were sourced from various Southern African Exxaro mines and include coal, iron ore and titanium. The result is a trophy that weighs in at 9,4kgs and which often gives the winning riders a surprise as they hoist it above their heads at prize giving.

 

Absa African Special Jerseys

The striking red Absa African Jersey is awarded to the highest-placed teams in the UCI Men and Women’s categories who meet the following criteria:

With the sport of mountain biking growing rapidly across the continent, the competition for this special jersey becomes more intense each year. The best result from an all-African men's team was fifth in 2015.

The women's Absa African special jersey was introduced for the 2018 race, another step towards gender equality in the sport of mountain biking.

 

Absa African Men's Jersey

The Burry Stander Memorial trophy, created in 2013, is awarded to the winners of the Absa African special jersey for the highest placed team from the continent.

The trophy was created by renowned local artist Angus Taylor in dedication to Burry Stander, the former U23 World Champion, World Cup winner and first South African winner of the Absa Cape Epic. Stander was tragically killed in a collision with a taxi while training on 3 January 2013. He had been scheduled to ride the 2013 event with his Swiss partner Christoph Sauser as defending champion. Angus has himself completed the Cape Epic four times and has an intimate feel for the race. He used exclusively South African materials in the design of the trophy. It was inspired by a Chiwara, a styled wood-carved antelope used in African ceremonies, which in this case is sculpted out of haematite from Thabazimbi. The Chiwara is depicted running on the base’s rugged Matumi wood, sourced from South African watercourses.

 

Absa African Women's Jersey

The Hannele Steyn Trophy was created in 2017 and will be awarded to the first all-African women’s team to cross the finish line as of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic.

Hannele Steyn is the only women to have finished every Absa Cape Epic since the inaugural race in 2004 and is part of the four Last Lion’s, all of which have ridden every race. The trophy touches on the strength of women at the Cape Epic, and this new trophy and category is vital in promoting African cycling.

Pretoria artist Kgaogelo Mashilo’s designed the trophy, which includes the Adinkra symbol of the Wawa Aba, the seed from wawa tree from West Africa.

Mashilo says: “The seed from the tree is renowned to be extremely hard and strong. The symbol of the seed, which is very distinctive, speaks of toughness and persistence. It is a really tough seed. I wanted to use that to show that female Absa Cape Epic riders have the same toughness of the seed”

 

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