It’s a question asked after many an edition of the Absa Cape Epic – was that the toughest Epic yet? With the most distance and most elevation, the notorious 2008 edition also held the record for the most teams that didn’t finish. But that dubious honour has now moved to the 2022 edition, which, based on our historical stats, was possibly toughest Cape Epic yet. Here’s the data…

By Sean Badenhorst

There is never an easy Cape Epic. There’s actually never really an easy mountain bike race. It’s a tough sport. It’s one of the reasons so many of us love it. But the annual Absa Cape Epic is the highest profile mountain bike stage race in the world and it’s become somewhat of a benchmark by which other stage races are measured.

After Stage 2 (Day 3) of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, we published this article that revealed just how brutal the first two stages had been, through a combination of heat (Stage 1) and headwind/distance (Stage 2). But while those two stages didn’t claim as many as Stage 1 of the 2017 edition (when 80 teams succumbed), they did cull the field significantly, with subsequent stages seeing more riders either not making the daily cut-off or opting to withdraw.

Note, you may have to turn your mobile phone to landscape to see full tables

Here’s how the stages played out in 2022:

Teams start Teams finish Teams out
Prologue 527 520 7
Stage 1 520 474 46
Stage 2 474 445 29
Stage 3 445 426 19
Stage 4 426 413 13
Stage 5 413 384 29
Stage 6 384 364 20
Stage 7 364 359 5
TOTAL     168

Seven teams on the opening day? Six solo riders finished without their partners, so likely illness or a positive PCR test for the virus.

There’s an increasingly high volume of singletrack in each edition of the ‘modern’ Absa Cape Epic. | Photo: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic

It’s always worth remembering though that when a team is eliminated from the race for whatever reason, it’s seldom both riders that leave the race. It’s usually one team member that struggles and withdraws leaving the remaining teammate to complete the event on his/her own. There were a total of 117 riders that completed the 2022 edition as Individual Finishers. They get a medal, but they don’t feature in the team results, obviously. They are listed on the official results though as a finisher, with their stage and total times all recorded.

So a total of 845 mountain bikers finished the 2022 Cape Epic from a total of 1054 starters. That’s 79.22% that finished, which is still lower than the total finisher numbers (teams + individuals) in the previous four editions. It’s also less than the 80.94% that completed the 2008 edition, which covered a massive distance of 966km with 18529 metres of ascent. For comparison, the 2022 edition covered 657km with 17250m of ascent.

% of total finishers – Teams & Solo recent editions

2017 2018 2019 2021 2022
All 84.1% 90.6% 92.2% 90.9% 79.2%
Men 85.9% 92.5% 91.7% 92.5% 82.2%
Women 92.6% 83.3% 86.1% 95.8% 79.5%
Masters 84.1% 90.8% 93.8% 90.9% 82.2%
Grand Masters 79.7% 89.2% 93.3% 84% 70.2%
Mixed 77.5% 87.7% 88.7% 93.7% 72.8%

In the 2000s, the Cape Epic was still in its infancy and the annual route was difficult to alter really, since it needed to take riders from Knynsa to Stellenboch and there were only so many options back then. The Cape Epic route director in those days was Leon Evans, who was given the nickname Dr Evil because the route seemed to get harder each year. In 2008, Leon took it a step too far, which is why that edition is spoken of as the most brutal.

The 2008 Absa Cape Epic included a high percentage of gravel roads, as was the norm for the early point-to-point editions.| Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/SPORTZPICS

The obvious differences between the  2008 and 2022 editions are the race format and the route. The 2008 edition was the last point-to-point version from Knysna to Stellenbosch. Back then, mountain biking wasn’t that popular and there were limited established singletrack trails, so the route covered a lot of ground on gravel roads and jeep track. Nowadays, the route uses a clover-leaf format with more than 60% singletrack.

Roel Paulissen and Jakob Fuglsang won the 2008 edition in a time of 36 hours 01 minute 44 seconds. Georg Egger and Lukas Baum won the 2022 edition in 27:44:06. And of course, in 2008 it’s likely all the riders would have been on 26-inch wheels versus the standard 29-inch wheels of today. The 2008 edition was the first to have a Prologue and the only edition to have a total of nine stages.

Some comparisons between what appear to be the toughest editions:

2022 2008
Distance 657km 966km
Climbing 17250m 18529m
Winning time 27h44m06s 36h01m44s
100th  39h26m33s 50h13m45s
200th  45h27m56s 56h51m44s
300th  51h51m44s 62h42m32s
359th  59h36m07s 66h46m48s
Teams started 527 598
Teams finished 359 435
Individual finishers 117 98
% of teams that DNF 31.8% 27.4%
% of all riders that DNF 20.8% 19.0%
Oliver Munnik at the 2008 edition, where he and Erik Kleynhans finished 12th overall.

Oliver Munnik, who has now completed 12 editions of the Cape Epic, is always a good rider to speak to because he’s doesn’t sugarcoat his opinion and he’s been riding at the sharp end of the Cape Epic since he was at school. Not quite, but it seems that way. The 2008 edition was his second and he and Erik Kleynhans finished 12th overall.

“The Absa Cape Epic is always tough. To say one is tougher than another is not that accurate. We just have this ability to forget what we have been through,” said Munnik after the 2022 edition, where he and Nic Dlamini, racing as Team Absa Amawele, finished 29th overall.

“You get guys who train with a 34-tooth chainring and then come to race the Epic with that. I train on a 34 but race the Epic with a 32. This year there were some steeper climbs where that was actually really important. But also, by Stage 5 you accumulate fatigue and having a slightly lighter gearing option helps for the second half of the race,” added Munnik, who admitted that the exceptional off-the-bike support from Absa in 2022 also helped.

Nic Dlamini and Oli Munnik of team ABSA Amawele during stage 5 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. Munnik  says that Dlamini’s power on the non-technical sections was a bonus, especially on the windy stages.

“Having done seven Epics, I do think the 2022 race was one of the more challenging routes. It was an awesome route, but if you were underprepared, there was nowhere to hide,” said Craig Uria, who, as Team Restonic with Andrew Duvenage, was third in the Masters and 25th overall. “It seems like there was a concerted effort to find the steepest climbs possible! And the long stages had lots of singletrack, whereas in the older Epics those long stages were mostly on roads.”

“This was definitely one of the hardest Epics I’ve done,” said Duvenage. “The heat on Days 1 and 2 put a lot of people on the back foot from the word go. Having the Queen stage on Stage 1 was disruptive and the gradients seemed steeper than the last few years. Not just steeper sections, like in the past, but entire climbs were steeper. Also, long stages returned.”

Team Restonic’s Craig Uria (left) and Andrew Duvenage (pictured here at registration) who finished 25th overall and third in the Masters category both lamented the steepness of the climbs in the 2022 Absa Cape Epic.

“It was a hard Epic for sure, but it must have been harder for the women’s teams. I rode in a Mixed team this year, which gave me the advantage of a strong male partner who protected me throughout and even pushed my bike for me up that climb on Stage 1. But for the women-only teams to ride without bunches for protection into the wind would have really taken its toll,” said Marleen Lourens, who has completed seven Cape Epics.

“They need to keep the Epic tough though. Riders must prepare better. I noticed riders carried too little water on them. There’s no excuse not to have enough water with the modern hydration packs, like USWE available these days. Even the pros use them on some stages,” added Lourens, who finished third in the Mixed division with Fairtree Singletrack teammate, Zachary Swart and 116th overall.

Riding her eighth Absa Cape Epic (her seventh finish) , Marleen Lourens appreciated being in the Mixed category where it was possible to ride in bunches for shelter on the windy stages.

“The Cape Epic is meant to be tough, nearly impossible for the average man. This is the reason it is so special,” said Lance Stephenson, a mountain bike coach whose first Cape Epic was the 2022 edition. The first two stages were so tough for us, but the next six smiled on us. This route took us to amazing places. The Cape Epic wouldn’t be so special in the hearts of the riders if we didn’t suffer, overcome and experience a range of emotions.” Stephenson and his Spilo Express teammate, Cameron Wright, finished 177th overall.

Riding his first Absa Cape Epic, mountain bike coach, Lance Stephenson, says the event needs to be tough to deliver the range of emotions that participants experience.

Start and finish stats of complete teams

Year All Start All Finish % teams DNF
2022 527 359 31.8%
2021 290 247 14.8%
2019 690 597 13.5%
2018 672 564 16.1%
2017 666 503 24.4%
2016 648 483 25.5%
2015 624 512 18%
2014 620 522 15.7%
2013 630 496 21.4%
2012 605 481 20.5%
2011 604 496 18%
2010 589 445 24.5%
2009 598 503 16.1%
2008 599 435 27.4%
2007 624 468 25%
2006 466 379 19.1%
2005 433 324 25.2%
2004 273 199 27.1%
Ave 527 445 21.3%
Pre-Covid-19 Ave 584 463 21.1%

All categories start and finish stats 2022

2022 Team Totals % of Teams that DNF Number of Solo Finishers Total Finishers: Teams + Solo Total % Finishers: Teams + Solo
All Teams Start 527
All Teams Finish 359 31.80% 117 835 79.22%
Men Teams Start 188
Men Teams Finish 134 28.72% 41 309 82.18%
Women Teams Start 22
Women Teams Finish 17 22.73% 1 35 79.55%
Masters Teams Start 167
Masters Teams Finish 123 26.51% 32 278 83.23%
Grand Masters Teams Start 104
Grand Masters Teams Finish 56 46.15% 34 146 70.19%
Mixed Teams Start 46
Mixed Teams Finish 29 36.96% 9 67 72.83%

% of Teams that DNF

2017 2018 2019 2021 2022
All 24.4% 16.1% 13.5% 14.8% 31.8%
Men 23.3% 13.2% 11.4% 11.8% 28.7%
Women 14.1% 25% 16.7% 8.3% 22.7%
Masters 15.3% 24.8% 10.3% 14.3% 26.5%
Grand Masters 20.3% 29.7% 13.4% 26% 46.2%
Mixed 20.5% 27.5% 20.8% 12.5% 36.9%

Except for Women in 2018, the percentage of teams that Did Not Finish the 2022 edition was higher than the previous four editions overall and in every category. The Grand Masters (50-years and older) and Mixed saw significant DNF rates this year!

Christoph Sauser (left) and Karl Platt at the start of Stage 2 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. They have both won the race overall five times and partnered this year to win the Masters category as NineOne Songo Epic Legends.

General statistics after 2022 (new additions in red)

Most stage wins 


38 Christoph Sauser (SUI)

20 Burry Stander (RSA)

17 Karl Platt (GER)

13 Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE)

12 Bart Brentjens (NED)

9 Nino Schurter (SUI)

6 Mannie Heymans (NAM), Henrique Avancini (BRA), Manuel Fumic (GER)


31 Annika Langvad (DEN)

18 Hanlie Booyens (RSA)

17 Ariane Lüthi (SUI)

14 Sharon Laws (GBR)

12 Esther Suss (SUI)

10 Robyn de Groot (RSA)

9 Hannele Steyn (RSA)

8 Anke Moore (RSA), Yolande de Villiers (RSA) and Sally Bigham (GBR), Sina Frei (SUI), Laura Stigger (AUT)

7 Sabine Spitz (GER), 7 Kate Courtney (USA), 7 Anna van der Breggen (NED)


18 Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA)

15 Ariane Lüthi (SUI), Erik Kleinhans (RSA)

14 Sebastian Stark (GER), Laura Stark (GER)

10 Barti Bucher (SUI), Paul Cordes (RSA), Yolande Speedy (RSA)

8 Thomas Frischknecht (SUI), Jenny Rissveds (SWE)


26 Bart Brentjens (NED)

25 Abraao Azevedo (BRA)

18 Shan Wilson (RSA)

17 Andrew McLean (RSA)

14 Linus van Onselen (RSA)

13 Doug Brown (RSA)

12 Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA)

11 Carsten Bresser (GER), Udo Boelts (GER)

10 Robert Sim (RSA) 

6 Joaquim Rodrigues (ESP), Jose Hermida (ESP), Craig Uria (RSA), Andrew Duvenage (RSA)

5 Karl Platt (GER), Christoph Sauser (SUI)


32 Heinz Zoerweg (AUT)

28 Barti Bucher (SUI)

21 Bart Brentjens (NED)

14 Abraao Azevedo (BRA)

13 Robert Sim (RSA)

13 Udo Boelts (GER)

8 Andrew McLean (RSA)

7 Peter Vesel (SLO)

Africans (and South Africans) in the Cape Epic overall top 10:

2022 – 4 (4 SA)

2021 – 6 (5 SA)

2019 – 2 (2 SA)

2018 – 0

2017 – 3 (3 SA)

2016 – 3 (3 SA)

2015 – 8 (8 SA)

2014 – 5 (5 SA)

2013 – 4 (4 SA)

2012 – 8 (8 SA)

2011 – 3 (1 SA)

2010 – 5 (5 SA)

2009 – 5 (3 SA)

2008 – 6 (5 SA)

2007 – 4 (3 SA)

2006 – 10 (6 SA)

2005 – 8 (8 SA)

2004 – 13 (10 SA)

Pieter du Toit (left) and Marco Joubert of Imbuko Type Dev won Stage 5 and secured the African category title at the 2022 Absa Cape Epic.

South African Cape Epic overall stage winners


20 Burry Stander

4 Kevin Evans

4 Matthew Beers

3 Shan Wilson

3 David George

3 Philip Buys

2 Matthys Beukes

2 Brandon Stewart

1 Jacques Rossouw

1 Gert Heyns

1 Ben-Melt Swanepoel

1 Richard Beswick

1 Marco Joubert

1 Pieter du Toit

Candice Lill (left) and Mariske Strauss after winner Stage 3 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. | Photo: Sam Clark/Cape Epic


18 Hanlie Booyens

10 Robyn de Groot

9 Hannele Steyn

8 Yolande de Villiers

8 Anke Moore

5 Yolande Speedy

5 Zoe Frost

3 Michelle Lombardi

3 Mariske Strauss

3 Candice Lill

2 Karien van Jaarsveld

1 Leana de Jager

1 Christi Smith

Multiple overall winners:


5 Christoph Sauser (SUI) 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

5 Karl Platt (GER) 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2016

3 Stefan Sahm (GER) 2007, 2009, 2010

3 Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) 2013, 2015, 2018

2 Burry Stander (RSA) 2011, 2012

2 Roel Paulissen (BEL) 2005, 2008

2 Nino Schurter (SUI) 2017, 2019


5 Annika Langvad (DEN) 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019

3 Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) 2014, 2015, 2016

2 Hanlie Booyens (RSA) 2004, 2009

2 Sharon Laws (GBR) 2004, 2009

2 Sally Bigham (GBR) 2011, 2012

2 Esther Süss (SUI) 2012, 2017

South Africans that have won Cape Epic titles:

Men: Burry Stander x2, Matthew Beers

Women: Hanlie Booyens x2, Zoe Frost, Hannele Steyn, Anke Moore, Yolande de Villiers, Karien van Jaarsveld, Yolande Speedy

Mixed: Yolande Speedy/Paul Cordes x2, Erik Kleinhans x 2, Nic White/Anke Moore, Nicky Giliomee/Brennan Anderson

Masters: Doug Brown x 3, Andrew McLean x 2, Frank Soll, Duncan English, Fred Coleske, Linus van Onselen, Geddan Ruddock, Shan Wilson, Damian Booth, Craig Uria, Andrew Duvenage

Grand Masters: Robert Sim x 2, Andrew McLean

Riding for the Absa She Untamed initiative, Hannele Steyn managed to complete her 18th Absa Epic (mostly) with a smile…

The Last Lions

Unfortunately Craig Beech was a non-finisher at the 2022 editions, so now only three riders have completed every edition of the Cape Epic (18 in total). They are Hannele Steyn (56), Mike Nixon (63) and John Gale (53)– all South Africans.