Cape Town - As they pedal up seemingly endless inclines, dodging potholes and protruding roots, there will be one name on every rider’s lips: “Doctor Evil” - followed by a slew of choice four-letter words.
The twisted GP, known to his friends and family as Leon Evans, is part of the design team behind next year’s Absa Cape Epic.
His last offering pushed people to tears, and his next promises to be no different.
At a route launch event on Tuesday, the event’s director, and part-time architect, Kevin Vermaak announced next year’s Cape Epic would be living up to its title as “the world’s toughest mountain bike event”.
“Finishing is and will always be an enormous physical and mental challenge, and riders need much dedicated training and preparation to earn the title of a Cape Epic finisher.”
Despite speculation that the event might return to its birthplace in Knysna, the challenge will once again spin into life at the Meerendal Wine Estate with 1 200 cyclists, divided into teams of two, chasing through 720km of rugged trails and single tracks winding through the Breede River Valley, Greyton’s farmlands and the apple orchards of Elgin.
And with an overall prize purse of R1 million for the winners, there has never been better motivation to tear through the Western Cape’s sprawling countryside.
The event starts on March 23 with the prologue event at the now-familiar Meerendal Wine Estate. An introduction to the race, the prologue is short - spread across just 23km with a relatively gentle 700m of climbing.
The first stage of the race on the following day is a wake-up call for the weekend warriors and stalwarts telling them that Doctor Evil is still handing out the prescriptions.
It starts at Arabella Wines, just outside the town of Robertson, and spans over 108km.
While most riders at the launch event gasped when they saw the section’s 2 450m of climbing, South African mountain biker Darren Lill said he was relishing the encounter with the rising altitudes. He is gunning for first place in next year’s event.
Stage two will once again play out in Robertson, but this time riders will cycle through the Klein Karoo and between the northern Riviersonderend Mountains.
In stage three, cyclists will chase through to Greyton, transitioning from the red dust of the Karoo to the area’s lush farmlands.
The area will host the fourth stage as cyclists ride through the most varied terrain, with twisting and rocky single track making way for rolling hills and district roads.
Stage five, known as the Queen Stage, has the longest and steepest trails with over 2 900m of climbing.
With the most difficult portion of the race behind them, riders are rewarded with a flowing and relaxed trail winding between the apple orchards of Elgin in stage six.
Stage seven is the grand finale, but the final leg is short.
Waiting at Lourensford Wine Estate is the race's famous finish line.