The Route

From Knysna to Lourensford. Total distance: 886km. Total ascent: 15045m
Stage 1: Knysna – Uniondale

Distance: 101km

Ascent: 2660m
The Jewel of the Garden Route, Knysna, once again hosts the start of the Absa Cape Epic, with the route heading out on familiar roads into the lush indigenous forest for the first 50km. Riders then experience the first new element of the 2007 route heading north instead of west at this point. Hilly open-road riding replaces the cool cover of the forest with no shelter from the elements. The major obstacle for the day will be the 12km climb over Prince Alfred’s pass – complete with a gut-wrenching false crest two kilometres short of the real thing – and then it is into the heat of the Klein Karoo, finishing over a rocky historic Wagon Trail into the town of Uniondale.

Stage 2: Uniondale – Oudtshoorn

Distance: 132km

Ascent: 2245m
The start out of Uniondale is gentle, a rolling affair on open roads as the Absa Cape Epic follows the Kamanassie River. For some forty kilometres, riders will enjoy the scenery of this spectacular area, before turning right and begining their assault on the Kamanassie Nature Reserve. 35km of back-breaking off-road riding follows, starting with a twelve kilometre rocky jeep track with over 800m climbing at an average of 6.6%. After a treacherously lose rocky descent, the final 50-odd km into Oudtshoorn will be fast and fun, and if the wind is favorable it will push the riders all the way home after the 2007 Absa Cape Epic’s longest day.

Stage 3: Oudtshoorn – Ladismith

Distance: 128km

Ascent: 2425m
Oudtshoorn bids the riders of the Absa Cape Epic farewell, and almost immediately they are faced with fast jeep track through arid, ostrich-filled plains, a mild start to the toughest climbing day of the 2007 event. The speedy start grinds to a crawl after 40km at Fielie’s Folly where riders climb 430m at an average 14%! The good news is that there is a fun, fast, open descent on the other side and almost 30km of recovery time before the Calitzdorp Crusher looms, offering another 3km of brutal stony jeep track, before the riders descend to the foot of the Huis Rivier pass. 8km of grind upwards on the tar later, the route turns onto pleasant jeep tracks through picturesque apple orchards, followed by 30km of rolling open graded gravel roads into the finish at Ladismith.

Stage 4: Ladismith – Barrydale

Distance: 121km

Ascent: 1285m
After arguably the hardest start to the Absa Cape Epic ever, day four is a relatively easier rest day, but still holds its own challenges. The roll out of Ladismith is on tar for 6km, before the riders turn right and head onto farm roads of the area. Wide open roads, short climbs and a few technical obstacles will give the Epic entrants time to regroup and recuperate, before entering the Leopard Rock game reserve, where sandy jeep tracks and perplexed wildlife await. Then it is onto more rocky terrain for the final 25km into Barrydale.

Stage 5: Barrydale – Montagu

Distance: 102km

Ascent: 1590m
The route out of Barrydale promises to be spectacular with the first 40km crisscrossing the scenic farms in the valley, before the riders of the Absa Cape Epic are asked to find their climbing legs once more as they head up a challenging 5km singletrack climb to the top of the Op De Tradouw pass. From this summit, all roads point down until the race enters the moonscape valley leading to the Wolfieskop Pass, which climbs 430m in 7km, before sending riders on a helter skelter ride down the other side on the best descent of the 2007 route. The roll into Montagu is fast and not too taxing and the welcome will be warm.

Stage 6: Montagu – Villiersdorp

Distance: 111km

Ascent: 1565m
After a blistering 5km tar start through Cogmanskloof, the race leaves Montagu and heads into the farmlands of the lush Robertson valley, be warned the rolling hills and fun descents are riddled with thorns, so riders best come prepared! Exiting the farmland, the riders have a scenic 25km tar section before heading up the day’s big challenge, a 6km hike-a-bike section riders will remember from the 2005 Epic, followed by open roads and fast descents all the way to the foot of Rooihoogte. Locals beware: in true Epic tradition the route does not take the easy way along the tar road to the finish in Villiersdorp, but a more tortuous route to the radio mast above the town, before descending for a good night’s rest.

Stage 7: Villiersdorp – Kleinmond

Distance: 116km

Ascent: 1990m
Leaving Villiersdorp on the Absa Cape Epic can only mean one thing: a visit to one of its favourite sons, Groenlandberg. The good news for 2007 is that the riders in the Epic will only face about two thirds of this monster climb before turning left and enjoying a long stretch of rolling jeep track through natural fynbos. A gradual climb takes the riders up and over the mountain before they get to enjoy a roller coaster descent into the Lebanon forest area where fire roads and cool shady forests await. After this all-too-short forest section, a quick dip under the N2 and soon you will be rewarded with panoramic ocean views before descending into the sleepy coastal town of Kleinmond.
Stage 8: Kleinmond – Lourensford

Distance: 75km

Ascent: 1285m
The final day of the 2007 Absa Cape Epic starts from Kleinmond crossing the Palmiet River on a short and fast tar start, before turning right into the Kogelberg nature reserve riding alongside the Palmiet river on jeep track up and over the mountain, riders pass through the apple orchards of Elgin and Grabouw as the route works its way to the summit of Sir Lowry pass. Here, riders will be forced to portage their bikes for about a kilometre down slippery rocks that still bear the marks of the Voortrekker wagon wheels, not for their safety, but because the Gamtou pass is a national heritage site and special permission has been given for the first time to descend this historic track. After dropping onto the railway line for a fun, bumpy few kilometres, it’s into the magnificent Lourensford Wine Estate for the all-new Absa Cape Epic finish, where riders will collect their medals, and return, for a year, to a life outside the Absa Cape Epic.

Author: Cris Bloomfield

Usually mountain biking in the North.

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