Another 10 entries have been made available to sponsors, charities or others who might want to enter a team in this category.
Entries will be reserved for the charities and they can sell or raffle them. Due to the very limited number of entries to the race, these entries are highly sought after. Charities will also be given a platform at the event itself and on the Absa Cape Epic media channels.
Furthermore, Naudé also announced that the Absa Cape Epic would support four charities for the next three years: the Anna Foundation, Qhubeka, Laureus and the Cape Leopard Trust.
Lynn Naudé said: “The Absa Cape Epic is proud of its record of encouraging development riders and with this initiative we want to celebrate our next generation of star riders. Five riders who have participated in this category have already gone on to represent South Africa and we have the opportunity to contribute to developing up-and-coming South African talent in the build up towards the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban.
“The eight-day Cape Epic takes its toll on participants and there are a limited number of people in this age profile who have the ability to finish the Cape Epic, so the three organisations have recommended that we start by extending two entries to each of them. This will increase the number of teams in this category by 54% over the 2016 figure, but for us it’s more about approaching this in a sustainable way for young riders who are in the early stages of their riding careers.
“Exxaro, which launched its MTB Academy in 2011 and has sponsored the green special jersey for this category since 2012, has been central to the introduction of the category and getting us to this point and we are extremely grateful for all the support over the years. Its generous contribution has put us in a position where we are ready to take this step forward.
“We have refined our approach and from 2017 and we will work with charity partners that are closely aligned with our core business. There are three areas of focus: first are programmes that use sport or bicycling to uplift communities; second are those linked to Absa Cape Epic host towns; and third are environmental conservation, since our sport requires ongoing interaction with the environment.
“We’ve worked with these charities before, so we are familiar with their outstanding work and the ethos of each organisation. With a streamlined charity programme and commitment for the next three years we’ll be able to dedicate more attention to each organisation and endeavour to make a meaningful difference to the communities that are touched by the race. The teams riding for charities of their own choice was synonymous with the Cape Epic and they had raised over R15.4m since 2011 and this would continue as usual.”
Mellis Walker, a member of the Exxaro MTB Academy steering committee said: “Mountain biking is growing in the communities where these programmes operate and a competitive development category at the Absa Cape Epic will accelerate the progress of young talent. We are proud that five riders who have participated in this Exxaro special jersey race have already gone on to represent South Africa. We want to build heroes in these communities and foster a love for the sport among them. Doing so would also expose a new audience to the Absa Cape Epic and mountain biking generally.”