Karl Platt, five-time Absa Cape Epic winner, took a look at the 2018 route on Tuesday and pronounced himself pleased.
This, he said, would be an Epic for the marathon mountain bikers, the ones who like the long distances. This — he did not quite say but you sensed he wanted to — would be an Epic for him.
Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann of Scott Sram won the 2017 Epic, two Swiss specialists at the cross-country distance, a shorter and sharper form of the sport. Schurter, the 2016 Olympic champion who has just won his sixth cross-country World Championship, is perhaps the dominant mountain biker of his generation.
"The cross-country guys were just lucky," laughed Platt, the German who won the first Epic in 2004 with Namibia’s Manie Heymans and rides for Team Bulls.
"I like it already. I like to race around Wellington because I train there and it’s like my home ground. The route for the first three days is long … that will suit the marathon guys, and shorter towards the end, which may be better for the cross-country guys, so we will have to make sure we have a bit of a gap for the finish."
The 2018 Epic will begin with a 20km prologue on Table Mountain on March 18 before ending 658km and 1,3530m of climbing later at the Val de Vie estate in the Paarl-Franschhoek valley on March 25. The route will visit Robertson, Worcester and Wellington and will include for the first time since 2010 a time trial, which, it is hoped, will shake things up among the leading teams.
Epic founder Kevin Vermaak hinted he would be announcing the participation of some big-name road cyclists for 2018.
"The masters category has got so serious now, if you want to win it, you have to beat someone who has won the Tour de France. Just to get on the podium [in 2016] you had to beat an Olympic gold medallist," Vermaak said.
"After George Hincapie [17 Tours de France] and Cadel Evans [2011 Tour de France winner and 2009 World Champion] rode and won the masters [in 2016], popularity among road professionals has been phenomenal," he said.
The Hannele Steyn African Women’s Trophy, named after the first female winner of the Epic and one of just four people to have completed all 14 races to date, was unveiled on Tuesday.
It will be presented to the first all-African women’s team to cross the line first at the finish.