Meet the Great Grand Masters

of the Absa Cape Epic

The Great Grands Masters competition is for riders over the age of 60. Which readers will be surprised to note is not an insignificant number. In total there are 18 teams and 36 riders contesting for the grey jerseys, the oldest of which is 69-year-old Kurt Plachel.

While Kurt Plachel’s is nearing his 70th birthday, the teams to watch in the Great Grand Masters competition are at the younger side of the category. Three of the ten riders making up the five teams likely to contest for the grey jerseys only turn 60 in 2024. The oldest of the group is in fact one of the strongest riders among them, Tulbagh trail maestro and fruit farmer, Deon Wilkins.

Anyone who has ridden with Wilkins will be shocked to hear that he is 64. Not only does he climb like a man 30 years younger, he attacks downhills with the abandon of a 24-year-old. Raul Navarro Acuna knows exactly what he is getting himself into, as the Venezuelan has raced three of his five Absa Cape Epic’s alongside the South African. The Ernesto Cycling team’s best ever category finish was fourth, in the Grand Masters’ competition back in 2013, which not only shows their talent but also their longevity in the race and the sport.

They will be up against one of the most celebrated riders in the Absa Cape Epic’s history though. Swiss legend Barti Bucher has won a category in the race on six occasions; claiming the Toyota Mixed, NTT Masters, and Grand Masters titles. He is the most successful rider in the event’s history, to have not won an elite title, and is rightfully honoured with Team 100 for his Meerendal squad’s number board. Bucher’s partner for the 2024 race is newcomer Peter Furrer.

Fellow Swiss compatriots Peter Anton Felber and Andreas Diacon are another team to watch. The Stoneboks are both Epic Legends and have amassed 21 Legend and Pinnacle status Epic Series race finishes between them. Though Diacon is officially a Swiss resident he spends much of his time in Cape Town and has a Freedom Challenge finish on his palmarès along with five Absa Cape Epic finishers’ medals.

Inaugural champion, Rene Vallee who won the title alongside Alain Broglia in 2023, is back for another tilt at the title in 2024. This time out his partner is the German Ralf Kropp. The Forestiére & C&C team will not hand over their crown to the young upstarts, freshly qualified for the Great Grand Masters competition without a fight.

Like Wilkins, Corrie Muller has a trail builders’ insights into the 2024 route. The dentist from Stellenbosch is one of the men behind the Stellenbosch Trail Fund trails, which will be utilised on Stage 7. He and Toshiba Namibia teammate, Frank Snyman are the youngest combination in the Great Grand Masters competition, as they both turn 60 this year. Though that alone does not make them favourites for the grey jerseys…