This year, 36 hours before the start, the 2020 Absa Cape Epic was cancelled due to the rapidly increasing spread of Covid-19. It was a devastating blow to many who’d trained for months and flown across the country – and the world – to be in Cape Town for the start. Chances are, the 2021 edition will be postponed.

By Sean Badenhorst

We haven’t had any official word yet from the organisers, but a letter went out to Ironman South Africa 2021 entrants recently notifying them that the high-profile international triathlon, scheduled to take place in Port Elizabeth on 14 March 2021, has been postponed to 21 November 2021.

The 2021 Cape Epic is scheduled to run from 21-28 March, a week later than Ironman South Africa. Both the Ironman and Cape Epic are owned by the same company, Advance.

We asked the Cape Epic on Monday about whether the ongoing South African lockdown restrictions, would have an effect on the 2021 edition. The response was that there is discussion taking place currently and a decision will be made and communicated soon.

The Absa Cape Epic sees around 3000 people gather for the event each year, about 1300 of those are riders and the rest are event staff and rider support staff. The current South African Lockdown Level 1 restrictions prohibit outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.

Cycling South Africa has worked with the government to ensure restricted events could be held from 1 September 2020. All the usual Covid-19 precautions need to be taken and no more than 500 may participate.

Faces, the owners of the popular Nissan Trailseeker mountain bike marathon/half marathon series held their postponed events over three days instead of one to spread participants out in line with Covid regulations.

The 36ONE MTB Challenge ultra-endurance race and the KAP sani2c  three-day stage race were both postponed in 2020, but took place in adjusted formats to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions. But virtually all the participants are South Africans at these events.

Around 40% of the Cape Epic participants are from abroad. Although the South African government has opened up international travel from anywhere to help revive the ailing tourism sector, many countries still have international travel restrictions in place.

The Cape Epic is the most prestigious mountain bike stage race in the world. It’s unlikely the organisers will host a trimmed-down version, so expect a postponement announcement to come soon.