Ahead of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic each of the pre-race favourites spoke about how luck would play a key role in determining the eventual champions. Though Nino Schurter’s warning proved most prescient “Specialized have shown that time and again that they know how to minimize their misfortune” …

The Swiss star has now raced nine editions of the Absa Cape Epic. Despite having worn yellow in each of the last two races he has had to watch Matt Beers ride away victorious. This is in part due to the South African, and his American partners’ resilience. In 2023 Christopher Blevins bounced back from debilitating stomach cramps, on Stage 1, while in 2024 Howard Grotts required a couple of stages to find his international racing legs. Once he did there was no stopping him. 


Stage Winners: World Bicycle Relief

Margin of Victory: 51 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: World Bicycle Relief

Time Gap to Second: 51 seconds

The opening day provided hints of what was to come for the three teams who eventually filled the final podium positions and for ORBEA LEATT Speed Company. The Germans, who charged to victory in 2022, were off the pace during the Prologue and never quite captured the form their legion of fans hoped they would bring to the 2024 race. Buff Megamo’s Hans Becking and Wout Alleman were the surprise package of the time trial, posting the third best time and heralding their arrival as a team to watch throughout the twentieth Absa Cape Epic. Toyota Specialized Ninety One were a touch sluggish on the main climb of the course and conceded what appeared to be valuable seconds to the day’s winners, but Beers and Grotts were unconcerned. Perhaps they knew something we did not when ceding 51 seconds to the storming World Bicycle Relief combination of Schurter and Sebastian Fini. 

Stage 1:

Stage Winners: Buff Megamo

Margin of Victory: 2 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: World Bicycle Relief

Time Gap to Second: 1:10

The testing first marathon stage suggested that Grotts may be in trouble. The American was caught up in two innocuous crashes, the first with his support team rider Johan van Zyl, early in the stage. This meant that Beers had to twice pace him back to the front group. Later the Toyota Specialized Ninety One team were distanced ahead of the final climb, the formidable Fanties Pass, Yet again they regained parity with the leaders, World Bicycle Relief and Buff Megamo. Lukas Baum and Georg Egger, of ORBEA LEATT Speed Company, were unable to match that effort, while Wilier Vitoria’s Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuelle Porro used Beers and Grotts for a tow back to the front after the final climb. The Italians were unable to match the descending of the favourites and Beers crashed in the finale, leaving Schurter, Fini, Becking and Alleman to sprint it out for stage honours. Fini snapped his chain in the penultimate corner, handing Buff Megamo the victory. The Dane’s misfortune kicked off a run of three significant mechanicals over three successive days.

Stage 2

Stage Winners: Buff Megamo

Margin of Victory: 2:02

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Buff Megamo

Time Gap to Second: 32 seconds

Fini’s second issue was a puncture early on Stage 2. Under pressure from the pace being set by ORBEA LEATT Speed Company the Lapierre Mavic Unity member of the World Bicycle Relief team punctured on a blue gum lined dual track. This flat was particularly untimely as the peloton was about to be narrowed to single file by a long singletrack climb into the Witzenberg Valley. Forced into a day-long chase Fini and Schurter burnt matches attempting to regain parity with their rivals. They reeled in everyone, barring Becking and Alleman, who raced to stage victory by just over 2 minutes. The win handed Buff Megamo the yellow CIOVITA jerseys and provided a perfect birthday present for Becking. While behind, World Bicycle Relief limited their time losses, ahead of Baum and Egger, and the Toyota Specialized Ninety One team, who had themselves suffered a major puncture. Beers had cracked his rear rim in the Witzenberg Valley and had to nurse his bike 10 kilometres to the next aid station, where he could replace the damaged wheel. This bad luck was his and Grotts last piece of misfortune for the week.

Stage 3

Stage Winners: Canyon SIDI

Margin of Victory: 49 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Buff Megamo

Time Gap to Second: 1:47

The only transition stage of the race took the teams from Saronsberg, in Tulbagh, to Wellington. It was perhaps the second most benign route, of the race, on paper. Yet it proved vital in the final reckoning. Descending from the Zuurvlakte on a rugged dual track Fini suffered his most severe mechanical of the race. The Dane’s Lapierre either threw up a rock or clipped a rock projected his way by a rival’s tyre, regardless of how it happened his chain guide was damaged. This resulted in him having to stop multiple times to place his chain back on the chainring. By the foot of Bainskloof Pass Fini and Schurter had worked their way into the second group on the road but they could find no aid powerful enough to help them reel in the lead group, which was being dragged uphill by Beers. Near the summit Canyon SIDI’s Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann attacked, escaping off the front while Toyota Specialized Ninety One, Buff Megamo and ORBEA LEATT Speed Company watched each other. Those three teams sprinted for second behind Seewald and Stutzmann, while Schurter and Fini lost 4 minutes to Beers and Grotts.

Stage 4

Stage Winners: World Bicycle Relief

Margin of Victory: 0 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Time Gap to Second: 2:00

The Queen Stage was the end of the yellow jersey journey for Buff Megamo. Under pressure from Canyon SIDI, initially, then Toyota Specialized Ninety One and World Bicycle Relief the likable leaders faltered. Having conceded a handful of seconds on the first of three major climbs on the day their time losses ballooned out to 6 minutes and 50 seconds by the end of the day. At the front the resurgent Seewald and Stutzmann were riding their way into the general classification podium picture until they too were distanced by Beers, Grotts, Schurter and Fini. In the run in to the finish the World Bicycle Relief team were able to create a slight gap to Toyota Specialized Ninety One, but Beers was confident of closing it when they hit the flats, which he duly did. Forcing the stage down to a sprint finish. Fini clipped the inside of the final corner with his handlebars, but somehow remained upright and held off Beers.

Stage 5

Stage Winners: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Margin of Victory: 12 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Time Gap to Second: 2:57

Having looked the weaker link of Schurter, Fini, Beers and Grotts, the American proved his doubters wrong on Stage 5. Grotts had managed his efforts when he and Beers were chasing on Stage 1 and 2, then ensured that Stage 3 and 4 were raced in a trouble-free fashion; his calm approach paid dividends on the final day in Wellington. The frantic chases of Stage 2 and 3 caught up with Fini on Stage 5, however when he could not follow Schurter’s pace up the final climb. With the 10-time World Champion setting the tempo for the group on a singletrack ascent, while his Danish partner dangled off the back, the Swiss ace did not realise Fini’s distress until it was too late. Beers and Grotts capitalised to win the stage, in yellow, while the World Bicycle Relief team had to fight to limit their time losses to just 57 seconds.

Stage 6

Stage Winners: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Margin of Victory: 41 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Time Gap to Second: 9:22

The penultimate stage was a slow burner, until the half way mark, when the war of attrition on the Simonsberg trails began to leave broken teams strewn across the singletracks. Again Grotts was powerful and matched Beers throughout as they followed the aggressive moves of Rabensteiner and Porro, Becking and Alleman, and the KMC team of Tim Smeenge and Teus Ruijter. Wilier Vitoria and KMC were stage hunting, while Buff Megamo were back to their best and smelt weakness in World Bicycle Relief. Those three teams’ attacks allowed Toyota Specialized Ninety One to ride reactively until the final 2 kilometres, when Beers and Grotts out-kicked Porro on a cruel rise. Rabensteiner was forced to wait for his teammate, while the men in yellow stormed to their second successive stage victory. Behind them Buff Megamo overcame a puncture to reduce their deficit to World Bicycle Relief by 4 minutes and 35 seconds. Once Schurter and Fini saw that their hopes for overall victory were dashed they visibly eased off, finishing the day in ninth place, 6 minutes and 25 seconds down on the day’s winners. 

Stage 7

Stage Winners: Bulls Mavericks

Margin of Victory: 41 seconds

Yellow Jersey Wearers: Toyota Specialized Ninety One

Time Gap to Second: 11:07

This set the Grand Finale up as a battle for second rather than a fight for first. Nonetheless Beers and Grotts went up the road with Urs Huber and Simon Schneller when the Bulls Mavericks attacked. Though the Toyota Specialized Ninety One men did ease off, eventually crossing the Stage 7 finish line in third, behind the day’s victors – the Bulls Mavericks – and Wilier Vittoria. Buff Megamo looked set to overturn the 1 minute and 11 second buffer World Bicycle Relief held over them at the start of the day, until a puncture took the wind out of Becking and Alleman’s chase. Eventually then, after eight days of fierce racing Buff Megamo had to be content with third, behind Schurter and Fini. Beers and Grotts’ final margin of victory was an impressive 11 minutes and 7 seconds; which is the largest since Karl Platt and Huber won by 13 minutes in 2016.

Final General Classification Standings

1. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne: Matthew Beers & Howard Grotts (25:22:17)

2. World Bicycle Relief: Nino Schurter & Sebastian Fini (25:33:24 | +11:07)

3. Buff Megamo: Hans Becking & Wout Alleman (25:33:53 | +11:36)

4. Canyon SIDI: Andreas Seewald & Marc Stutzmann (25:40:04 | +17:47)

5. Wilier Vittoria Factory: Fabian Rabensteiner & Samuele Porro (25:49:30 | +27:13)