Race Report – Team Bike-Discount @Absa Cape Epic 2024


This year, Paul and Niclas traveled to South Africa for the Cape Epic a week earlier than last year. They arrived in Stellenbosch exactly two weeks before the start of the 20th edition of the Cape Epic to acclimatize, inspect certain sections of the course, and adjust their bikes to the local conditions. The two stayed with a physiotherapist they met during last year’s Cape Epic, which allowed them not only to benefit from treatments after training but also to gain insights into everyday life in South Africa.

The Race 

The Absa Cape Epic is one of the most famous races in the MTB calendar. Each year, the best marathon and many cross-country riders, as well as hundreds of amateurs, tackle the eight stages through dusty and hot terrain in two-person teams.
The race began on Sunday with a typical Cape Epic prologue in Lourensford. The professional riders started last, around 12:30 PM, on the 26-kilometer course.


“We kept a rather conservative pace. Unfortunately, the notorious stomach bug hit Niclas right at the start of the race yesterday, so we didn’t want to overdo it today in the heat. There are still plenty of tough stages to come.”

After the stage, they quickly packed their things and moved to the next accommodation inland to Riebeek-Kasteel. From here, they could cover stages 1 to 5 with a 30-minute drive each day. From Monday, the alarm rang at 4:30 AM every morning, meaning breakfast, packing bottles and clothes, and heading to the start of the respective stage.

Stage 1: Niclas’ comment:

“Everyone was very nervous at the beginning. There was a crash in the field within the first 500 meters, which we luckily avoided. After that, the field slowly sorted itself out. Unfortunately, I had a flat tire halfway through the stage, but the time loss was minimal as we soon after swapped the wheel at a tech zone. The second half of the stage had three long climbs. Paul really pushed me hard there. Due to the increasing heat and a bit too little fluid intake, I got cramps towards the end, but overall, we came through solidly.”

Stage 2: Paul’s comment.

“Today was a very tough day for us. Niclas woke up with severe stomach pains. We thought he had gotten off lightly with the stomach bug yesterday, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We managed the first long climb reasonably well, but then nothing went right for two hours. My Sigma didn’t even show race-pace values, and still, Niclas had to struggle hard to keep up. No gel or isotonic drink seemed to work; he was completely out of energy. Towards the end, his legs started to work again, and we managed to gain some positions. Still, compared to yesterday, we were more than 20 minutes slower than our direct competitors. It’s going to be a tough job to make up for that in the coming days.”  

Stage 3: Niclas’ comment.

“This morning, I woke up with stomach pains again, just like yesterday. It made it really hard to get breakfast down. Today was the only transfer stage of this year’s Cape Epic, from Tulbagh to Wellington. We had a bit of bad luck again at the start as my front tire lost air. We had to let the field go and ride alone against the wind instead of rolling nicely in the pack. We started catching up with teams again only when we hit the first climb.

We were in different groups until Bainskloof Pass, mostly riding our own pace and overtaking teams. We rode up the Bainskloof Pass, an asphalt road, with Team Bulls. Suffering along with a former race winner was something special for me. At the end of the stage, Paul wasn’t feeling well, and we had to slow down a bit, but we were very satisfied with the result after yesterday’s stage.”

Stage 4: Pauls comment.

“The queen stage was shortened to 73 kilometers due to extreme temperatures of up to 40°C in the afternoon. We had pre-ridden almost the entire stage and knew it would still be tough. After the hard end to yesterday’s stage, my legs felt good again, and Niclas managed the first three climbs well with a steady, high pace.

The fourth and final climb, with nearly 900 meters of elevation gain, was the longest and hardest of the day. Niclas paced himself perfectly, and on the last third of the climb, we overtook several teams. A long descent followed, and we achieved our best result of this Cape Epic with 21st place.”

Stage 5: Niclas’ comment.

“One last time in Wellington before we head towards the finale in Stellenbosch tomorrow. Today’s stage was the shortest after the prologue: 70 kilometers with constant ups and downs. Paul missed the long climbs today, and it was the hardest day for him after the week so far, as he couldn’t play to his strength of high watt-to-kilogram ratio. Still, we got through well, and I’m glad we’re heading to Stellenbosch now.” 

Stage 6: Paul’s comment.

“Today was the worst day of the week for me. From the beginning, I felt like everyone around me had completely new legs overnight and fresh motivation due to the change of location and temperature. We were well-placed until halfway through the stage, but then Niclas suddenly felt very sick and had to take a short stop in the bushes. After that, he slowly recovered, but I started to struggle more and more.

The stage seemed endless, and it was a really tough day. Unfortunately, we lost quite a bit of time again and dropped a few places in the overall standings. I hope the extra hour of sleep will pay off tomorrow.”

Finale: Niclas‘ comment.

“We knew most of today’s route from training. The trails in Jonkershoek and on the way to the G-Spot Trail are an absolute dream on a normal training ride, but with almost 600 kilometers in the legs and arms, it looks very different depending on the day’s form. Luckily, we both had really good legs today and had a lot of fun with another German team. Some teams seemed to have underestimated today’s stage and gave it their all yesterday. We managed to make up a few positions in the overall standings.”  


“We are satisfied with the result given the circumstances. Without the stomach bug and the two days we lost a lot of time because of it, a better result would have been clearly possible, but that’s how it is at the Cape Epic. We could always rely on our bikes on the course. Flat tires are part of the Cape Epic experience, and except for two new tires and daily chain waxing, no further intervention on the bike was necessary.”