IRONMAN has reached an agreement to acquire the highly regarded Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa. In addition to operating The Motatapu and The Pioneer multiple stage mountain bike races in New Zealand, the purchase of Cape Epic ‘marks IRONMAN’s biggest step into the mountain biking market, as it aims to grow this race format substantially across the globe.’
Founded in 2004, the Cape Epic is the only eight-day mountain bike (MTB) stage race classed as hors catégorie (beyond categorisation) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Having recently completed its 13th edition, the race is unique in that it attracts world champions, Olympic champions, and other top professional riders, as well as a large field of international amateur participants.
“The Cape Epic is an iconic, world-class event that many consider the most prestigious mountain bike race in the world. This acquisition shows the commitment of IRONMAN and Wanda Sports to growing mass participation events worldwide,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer of IRONMAN who also oversees the active lifestyle segment for Wanda Sports.
“We see great potential in the mountain biking market, and the Cape Epic will anchor a portfolio of exciting and extraordinary off road and dirt-based races.”
Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak will spearhead this latest expansion for IRONMAN, and will be responsible for developing a worldwide series of mountain bike races.
Known as the ‘untamed African mountain bike race’, this eight-day event includes a prologue and seven stages, and is held in the Western Cape of South Africa in March. The route changes every year, and the accumulated distance of approximately 700km usually includes about 15,000m of altitude gain.
Over the years the Cape Epic has grown into the most televised mountain-bike stage race in the world – it is a highlight on the professional racing calendar and attracts amateur riders wanting to challenge themselves in the same environment as the professional riders.
“We are very excited about the future of the Cape Epic and have been looking for an opportunity to take a significant step forward,” said Vermaak. “The event has changed the face of mountain biking and the opportunity to tap into the expertise of a global event business like IRONMAN will take it to the next level.
“I am honoured to be afforded the opportunity to lead IRONMAN’s mountain biking business and look forward to being part of the global strategy.”
Vermaak said that Lynn Naudé would remain to lead the existing Cape Epic management and staff ‘who will continue to deliver the race at the highest level’. He also confirmed that the Absa Cape Epic would continue to operate from Cape Town.
“The Cape Epic has come a long way since 2004 and is reaching a point where its expansion depends on the growth of the mountain bike endurance category across the world,” continued Vermaak. “With IRONMAN we’ve found a partner who is aligned with where we want to go in terms of building that category.”
The 2017 edition of Absa Cape Epic will take place from 19-26 March with the route being announced in October 2016.