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Mountain Bike Action Magazine | Feature Friday: ABSA Cape Epic Photo Gallery

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Epic Endurance Riding in Africa

Sightseeing: Riders tackle a climb during Stage 2 and take in some breathtaking views. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Sightseeing: Riders tackle a climb during Stage 2 and take in some breathtaking views. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

The Absa Cape Epic was conceived by Kevin Vermaak while he was racing a multi-stage mountain bike race in Costa Rica. Two years later, in 2004, the inaugural Cape Epic was held in Cape Town, South Africa, pushing racers to their physical limits as they journeyed across nearly 500 miles. This year marks the 14th running of the Absa Cape Epic, which drew a crowd of world champions, Olympic medalists and courageous amateurs. The 2017 race challenged riders with a Prologue race, followed by seven grueling stages, totaling up to 430 miles and over 50,000 feet of climbing. Unfortunately, stage 2 was cut short due to extreme heat above 100 degrees. The Cape Epic is a team event, and this year 650 two-person teams were allowed to race. Both team members must cross the finish line together. The Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world and is likely the most physically demanding. This year’s competition was fierce, with participants Christoph Sauser and Karl Platt being five-time winners of the event. Other notable riders were 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalists Nino Schurter and Jenny Rissveds (riding for separate teams), as well as 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy. Last year’s winner, Urs Huber, teamed up with Platt again, and Cannondale’s factory cross-country racers Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini were ready to prove they could be an equal threat. It was really anyone’s race as the world’s top athletes lined up at the start gate of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.

Early lead: Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini took an early lead by winning the Prologue. They finished just over a second in front of Nino Schurter and his teammate Matthias Stirnemann. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Early lead: Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini took an early lead by winning the Prologue. They finished just over a second in front of Nino Schurter and his teammate Matthias Stirnemann. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Epic racing: Manuel Fumic pushes his bike up a steep climb during Stage 1. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Epic racing: Manuel Fumic pushes his bike up a steep climb during Stage 1. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Silhouettes: Two riders race their way down the trails with a media helicopter hovering overhead. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Silhouettes: Two riders race their way down the trails with a mediahelicopter hovering overhead. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Early battles: Nino Schurter and Manuel Fumic battle their way through Stage 1. Fumic and his teammate finished the stage in first place, while Schurter and his teammate took fourth. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Early battles: Nino Schurter and Manuel Fumic battle their way through Stage 1. Fumic and his teammate finished the stage in first place, while Schurter and his teammate took fourth. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

A change in scenery: Two riders find themselves in a lush forest and take in the new scenery while continuing to hold their place. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape/SPORTZPICS

A change in scenery: Two riders find themselves in a lush forest and take in the new scenery while continuing to hold their place. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape/SPORTZPICS

Covered head to toe: Riders, covered head to toe in dirt, race their bikes across a barren landscape during Stage 3. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Covered head to toe: Riders, covered head to toe in dirt, race their bikes across a barren landscape during Stage 3. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 2: Racers charge their way down a dirt road during Stage 2, which was cut short due to extreme heat. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 2: Racers charge their way down a dirt road during Stage 2, which was cut short due to extreme heat. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 2 gets cut short: Due to extreme heat, the race promoters shortened Stage 2 from 63.5 miles to 38.5 miles. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 2 gets cut short: Due to extreme heat, the race promoters shortened Stage 2 from 63.5 miles to 38.5 miles. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Flowing water: Riders navigate their way across a river during Stage 3. One rider appears to be heading the wrong way. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Flowing water: Riders navigate their way across a river during Stage 3. One rider appears to be heading the wrong way. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Fifth gear pinned: Nico Bell leads a group of notable riders, including Nino Schurter, Karl Platt, Henrique Avancini and many more, during Stage 4. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Fifth gear pinned: Nico Bell leads a group of notable riders, including Nino Schurter, Karl Platt, Henrique Avancini and many more, during Stage 4. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Charging through: Henrique Avancini leads a large group of riders through a creek during Stage 4. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Charging through: Henrique Avancini leads a large group of riders through a creek during Stage 4. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Comin’ in: A photo helicopter comes in for a close look at Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy racing their way to finish third in Stage 5. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Comin’ in: A photo helicopter comes in for a close look at Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy racing their way to finish third in Stage 5.  Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Side by side: Henrique Avancini and Christoph Sauser ride side by side during Stage 4. Avancini and teammate Manuel Fumic finished the stage in third, while Sauser and teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy crossed the finish line of Stage 4 in fourth. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Side by side: Henrique Avancini and Christoph Sauser ride side by side during Stage 4. Avancini and teammate Manuel Fumic finished the stage in third, while Sauser and teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy crossed the finish line of Stage 4 in fourth. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Knee-deep in the race: A group of riders dismount their bikes and cross a knee-deep river during stage 5. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Knee-deep in the race: A group of riders dismount their bikes and cross a knee-deep river during stage 5. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

River crossing: Nino Schurter navigates his way through a river during the seventh and final stage of the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

River crossing: Nino Schurter navigates his way through a river during the seventh and final stage of the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Disaster strikes: Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini of Cannonade Factory Racing were the overall race leaders, but after they both suffered tire punctures during Stage 5, which caused them to finish the stage in 10th, they were moved down to third overall going into Stage 6. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Disaster strikes: Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini of Cannonade Factory Racing were the overall race leaders, but after they both suffered tire punctures during Stage 5, which caused them to finish the stage in 10th, they were moved down to third overall going into Stage 6. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Greenhouse: Stage 6 took riders on a detour through a greenhouse. The stage was won by Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann. Kansai Plascon and Max Knox finished second, over 16 seconds behind the leaders. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Greenhouse: Stage 6 took riders on a detour through a greenhouse. The stage was won by Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann. Kansai Plascon and Max Knox finished second, over 16 seconds behind the leaders. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

No end in sight: A rider charges his way through Stage 6 searching for the finish line. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

No end in sight: A rider charges his way through Stage 6 searching for the finish line. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Bird’s-eye view: Two helicopters chase a group of riders to the finish line during the final stage. Photo by Zoon Cronje/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Bird’s-eye view: Two helicopters chase a group of riders to the finish line during the final stage. Photo by Zoon Cronje/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Through the vineyards: Waylon Woolcock, covered in dirt, rides through a vineyard during Stage 1 on his way to 13th place with teammate Hendrik Kruger. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Through the vineyards: Waylon Woolcock, covered in dirt, rides through a vineyard during Stage 1 on his way to 13th place with teammate Hendrik Kruger. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

And the winners are: Nino Schurter and his teammate Matthias Stirnemann proved to be the fastest and most consistent riders at the Absa Cape Epic, taking the overall win. o Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

And the winners are: Nino Schurter and his teammate Matthias Stirnemann proved to be the fastest and most consistent riders at the Absa Cape Epic, taking the overall win.  Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

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