Cape Epic Heroes
Taking place at the end of March every year, the Cape Epic is raced over eight gruelling days, starting on South Africa’s Western Cape at Meerendal and finishing at Val de Vie after 691kms and 15,400m of climbing. Thousands of riders enter in pairs, racing as a team in specific categories. Professional riders and amateurs alike are eligible to ride, all you need is a good mate, some serious grit and determination and some seriously rugged gear.
At this year’s edition, the Swiss MTB legend, Christoph Sauser, once again teamed up with his trusty Czech express train, Jaroslav Kulhavy, together making up Team Investec-Songo-Specialized. On paper, the pair look a formidable duo. Both are former world champions in cross country and marathon mountain biking and Kulhavy won gold in the 2012 Olympics in London, and neither are strangers to the Cape Epic having won together in 2013 and 2015. Sauser has in fact finished on twelve occasions, winning the event a record-equalling five times in total and accumulating 31 stage wins along the way.
However, it was never going to be an easy feat. Sauser came out of retirement to ride this year’s race (and has just announced he’s swapping the wheels for slippers for a second time) so his form was in question from the word ‘go’. Alongside his winningest companion however, and fresh from an unexpected victory at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge, what could possibly go wrong?
The answer, unfortunately for the Specialized pair, came wrapped in rainbow. Current Cross Country World Champion, Nino Schurter, smashed up the field with his Scott-SRAM team as the week wore on. Team Investec-Songo-Specialized looked very dangerous as they took the top spot on stages 2 and 3, but they could not compete with Scott-SRAM’s firepower. Schurter and his team took victory with eight minutes of daylight ahead of Investec-Songo-Specialized in the strongest field ever assembled at the Cape Epic.
Specialized is by far the most dominant brand at the Cape Epic, with the Epic FSR being the most popular bike for obvious reasons. Sauser, the veteran champion, knows exactly what he’s looking for when it comes to his steed for this event, and the bike built for his tilt at a record tally comes from a pedigree bred on the terrain of this race. Both Sauser and Kulhavy were riding the aggressive S-Works Epic FSR World Cup model complete with dual suspension to dampen any unwanted feedback from the rugged terrain.
The RockShox SID fork replaced the stock RS-1 and a custom Specialized Fox rear shock turned down the volume on the chatter at the back, both tuned with Specialized race brain technology. Standard brakes were swapped out with Magura Paceline carbon brakes to satisfy the weight weenies and SRAM’s flagship 12-speed Eagle groupset with Rotor Q-Rings completed the component package.
Finally, the custom paint job was striking and personal, with the rainbow stripes streaking through the S-Works script on the down tube, sponsor logos and the insignia of Sauser’s charity in pride of place, all wrapped subtly in zebra-like stripes.
You can own at least a version of the bike ridden by both Sauser and Kulhavy, only without the custom paint job. The 2017 S-Works Epic FSR World Cup is one heck of a bike combining stiffness, strength and light weight in its FACT 11m carbon frame, complemented by a RockShox RS-1 Brain fork, SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed groupset and Shimano XTR brakes for the best possible stopping power.
The Epic FSR Comp Carbon World Cup is a little more considerate to the bank accounts of amateur riders who do not benefit from an epic (pardon me…) sponsorship deal. The FACT 10m carbon and M5 alloy frame is equipped with a custom RockShox Reba RL 29 fork, SRAM gearing and Shimano hydraulic discs.
If you missed out this year, you should make sure you don’t do the same in 2018. As it grows in popularity for spectators and fans the world over, the coverage of the race is building online and on television. This year’s race was electric with thrilling riding from start to finish. For a roadie, it makes fascinating viewing as an experience of another dimension of our sport, and as a mountain biker, the Cape Epic feeds the wistful hunger for body-battering adventure that fills every one of us.
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