Absa Cape Epic fans will get a glimpse of the future when two of South Africa’s rising stars take on the rugged eight-day stage race in 2015. Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker are both 23-years-old – an age when mountain bikers tend to be better at the shorter disciplines. They have though shown good form recently in longer races and Croeser is the reigning SA Marathon champion. Riding together they won the four day PE to Plett stage race in 2014 – crossing the line first on all four of the stages – and Walker was the first solo rider home in last year’s seven-day Cape Pioneer Trek.
Croeser has one Absa Cape Epic under his belt, finishing 22nd with veteran Shan Wilson in 2013 after entering as a late replacement for an injured rider. Walker will be racing it for the first time. Croeser says they will be aiming for a top five overall finish and hoping to win the Absa African special jersey for being the first team from the continent to finish. “A stage win would put the icing on the cake,” he said. “Fortunately we get along really well and have a good understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Croeser of their partnership. “Generally I tend to set the pace on the climbs and Travis hits the front on the long open roads … you could call it the perfect combination.” Walker added: “ Rourke and myself have very similar strengths, we work well together and we always encourage one another when the going gets tough.”
The team aspect of the event is clearly something they are keen to get right: “The team dynamic makes for more interesting racing. For instance your partner might be having a good day and you are feeling a bit flat, but then your partner can help you along and get you to the end of the day,” said Walker.
They will be riding a Full-Dynamix Higher 29er over the eight days. “It is a full suss bike. We decided to ride it because of the unforgiving terrain we will have race over: it will be more efficient over the rough terrain and save a lot of energy,” said Walker. “The bike was designed with events like the Absa Cape Epic in mind,” added Croeser.
The KwaZulu Natal-based young professionals were clearly champing at the bit: “We all know it has been described as the Tour de France of mountain biking … it is by far the world’s leading mountain biking event,” said Croeser. “The Absa Cape Epic is definitely the benchmark for stage racing standards and every year it improves,” commented Walker. “The Epic has been on my to-do list for some time and I am very stoked to be given the opportunity to take part in such a high profile race.”
This year’s race takes place from 15 to 22 March and will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory. The race kicks off with a prologue on Table Mountain, starting from the University of Cape Town, and finishes eight days later at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville.
Meerendal will host the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations for the first time. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment, a farmer’s market, great food and wine and unmatched scenery. Vantage points will be accessible to the general public. If you want to experience the Grand Finale in style, Hospitality tickets are available on the website.