The 2024 Absa Cape Epic roared into life on 17 March with some furious action on the foothills of the Hottentots Holland Mountains at Lourensford Wine Estate.

As has become tradition, the Cape Epic started with a team time trial Prologue – a chance for amateurs to test their legs and an opportunity for the elite teams to gauge their opponents.

World Bicycle Relief’s Fini and Schurter take the lead after day 1. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

The Prologue, over 26km, saw teams pitted against the clock on a course characterised by short, steep climbs through vineyards and orchards, as well as flowy singletrack downhill sections. What the day will be remembered for, however, is heat. The temperature pushed up into the early 30s with little respite from the southeasterly breeze. The conditions also turned the Lourensford switchbacks into dusty sand traps. The traps got the better of a few amateurs but also managed to up-end Imbuko’s Marco Joubert. It didn’t do much to slow Joubert down though and he and partner Wessel Botha blazed through the course to hold the fastest time for quite a while. They would eventually finish in fourth overall. The fastest team over the course was mulitple Absa Cape Epic champion Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini riding for World Bicycle Relief. They were followed by the Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne outfit of two-time defending champ, Matt Beers and 2018 winner, Howard Grotts. Hans Becking and Wout Alleman of Buff Megamo rounded out the podium.

For seven-time starter and former winner Schurter, this was only his second Prologue win at the Absa Cape Epic. “Coming here from Europe, I thought ‘Okay, it’s not too hot’ but it was brutal out there. On the climbs, the air was just standing still – so I think maybe we went too fast in the beginning and suffered towards the end, but still very happy with the result,” he mused.

GHOST Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller take the prologue day win. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

In the Aramex Women’s Category, Ghost Factory Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner) appeared to be neck-and-neck in the early stages, but the heat proved too much for Austrian rider Mitterwallner. Cannondale Factory Racing faded towards the end of the stage, allowing Ghost Factory Racing’s Terpstra and Koller to surge ahead.

“We are very happy with a stage win,” said Terpstra. “We weren’t expecting that at all. We just wanted to ride at our own pace but then we started going nicely and getting faster. It was hot out there. And dusty. I am looking forward to a shower!”