Launched by Absa in 2019 to lower barriers to entry for women and grow female participation in the Absa Cape Epic, the #SheUntamed programme has grown organically into much more than that. As it celebrates its fifth year, here’s insight in what #SheUntamed means to women.

Paid partnership with Absa

Photography: AC Media

Historically, women have made up around 10% of the field at the annual Absa Cape Epic, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race and one of the toughest mass participation sports events in the world. Although the Absa #SheUntamed programme has started to deliver a female participation percentage increase in the event, the campaign has begun to have a positive effect outside the race.

It’s important to note that while #SheUntamed supports women’s mountain biking in South Africa, it is not a development initiative. Grassroots development and the Absa Cape Epic are at the two oppositive ends of mountain biking. #SheUntamed has become a support structure for women of means to either tackle the Cape Epic itself or sample it through the Epic Trippers experience.

Epic Trippers is an invitation-only three-day experience where keen female mountain bikers of varying abilities get to follow part of the Cape Epic, riding a small part of two stages, watching the racers from the side line and spending time in the race village where the event’s energy is at its most engaging. This can either inspire women that attend an Epic Trippers experience to consider taking on the full event, or simply motivate them to become more committed and consistent in their own mountain biking in their pursuit of personal improvement.

There’s also an Absa Cape Epic training camp held each January that offers four days of guided training rides and full rider back-up that selected female mountain bikers are invited to attend. It’s both here and through Epic Trippers where women of colour with Cape Epic-completion potential can be identified. Diversity is a key feature of #SheUntamed and the commitment by Absa for the 2024 edition of the race is to ensure that at least 20 of the 40 women starting via the #SheUntamed route will be women of colour.

But while all of the above is focussed on the riding of mountain bikes, #SheUntamed has grown beyond riding. It’s developed into a community. A group of women that grows each year offering support and motivation not only to the women in the #SheUntamed circle, but all women that encounter #SheUntamed – in any form. The reason for this is because it’s such a positive initiative that’s focussed on building up females that ride bikes and delivering a you-can mentality that’s hugely empowering.

At the recent 2024 Absa Cape Epic Training Camp at Karkloof in KwaZulu-Natal, it became increasingly evident that #SheUntamed has a ripple effect that’s far greater than just creating the opportunity and support for the 40 women riding the Absa Cape Epic under the #SheUntamed umbrella.

“It’s likely not that noticeable to outsiders. But as a female mountain biker that’s very much in tune with the market and having followed the #SheUntamed programme since its launch, I can see how it is helping uplift women’s mountain biking in general – and that’s both very encouraging and satisfying. All women mountain bikers I come into contact with want to know how they can be part of #SheUntamed. They’re eager to grow beyond what they currently consider their boundaries,” said Joanne Badenhorst of TREAD Media.

“In a sport that’s largely individual by nature, #SheUntamed has helped develop and grow a blended family or sisterhood. It’s a place/space that offers a sense of belonging through a shared passion, right from the most experienced mountain bikers to first-timers. Each woman inspires the others equally – across experience levels, social standing and skin colour. It’s really something you can only truly understand and appreciate when you experience it first-hand,” added Badenhorst.

Through the #SheUntamed initiative, Absa is “Empowering Africa’s tomorrow together, one story at a time”.

Paid partnership with Absa