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April 02, 2009

Shooting the Cape Epic 09 – an unforgettable experience


Early morning, Gordons Bay: a popular starting venue for certain crazy endurance events including Totalsports Challenge, Ironman and the reason I was there two weeks ago – the prestigious Cape Epic event, now in its seventh year.

One thousand two hundred privileged athletes lined up at the start of what would be an intense eight-day race, covering 80-140km per day on their trusty mountain bikes.

Top names from around the world pen these dates into their diary a year in advance, eager to hold the trophy at the end of what is becoming known as the “Tour de France” of mountain biking. Christoph Sauser and Karl Platt are two names sure to ring bells with most mountain bikers, among a field of many other top international male and female riders.


Day one saw the field climbing up to the water pump station above Gordons Bay and then working their way through to the N2, where they crossed into the Grabouw plantation.

After cycling through the burnt surroundings and crossing the Villiersdorp road at the top of the pass, their steepest climb for the day began on a rocky track up to the radio mast that looks down over the Elgin valley and Villiersdorp.

A hairy technical descent brought the field down to the Theewaterskloof dam, with 30km or so still to go to the finish of what has been named the toughest stage of any Cape Epic to date.

The Epic is an amazing logistics feat. As racers arrived at the Villiersdorp race village at the end of day one, they were met by a field full of tents pitched with mattresses already in each tent.

There were hot showers for everyone, a dining tent to cater for 2 000 people and local hospitality tents catering for the pancake and boerie roll lovers.


Every time the race moves to the next venue, the whole village is packed up and moved, ready to welcome all involved again.

During previous events, the village moved every night. This year, the village stayed at one venue for two nights in a row, allowing everyone involved a little extra time each day as they didn’t have to locate luggage and a tent and find their bearings with every new day of mountain biking pain.

The response was very positive and the daily routes were still amazing.

The Epic 09 route took the field (whittled down to 1 150 riders after day one) from the two-night stay in Villiersdorp to Greyton, on to Oak Valley near Elgin, and finally to Lourensford wine estate.


Each day, the riders were treated to beautiful Western Cape scenery, a well-balanced route with a healthy number of technical challenges and friendly faces all the way supporting them on their epic journey.

It was a great experience shooting the Cape Epic – a multitude of backdrops, action moments and so many colourful characters, not to mention the unforgettable and approachable international mountain biking heroes and heroines.

To see more of Greg Beadle’s action shots of the Cape Epic 09, visit his website.

Images © Greg Beadle 2009

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