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In 2009 the Absa Cape Epic Prologue was staged across the face of Table Mountain, in the Table Mountain National Park, but in the days before the event a fire swept across the slopes and much of the course.

After a few nervous days the organisers were, however, able to stage what became known as the "Dash through the Ash" as they had planned.

 

 

This year the Prologue returns to the mountain and a new course, which starts and finishes at the University of Cape Town. Once again the Table Mountain National Park has been devastated by fires in early March, but this time they stayed away from the mountain itself and the parts of it through which the Prologue will be staged.

"It's all systems go at this stage," said Absa Cape Epic race director Kati Csak. "The fires have not had an impact on the area around the route at all."

Meanwhile, final preparations are being made to the route, including a new wooden bridge and some singletrack below the King's Blockhouse and leading down to Plum Pudding Hill. Workers have also been cutting a track that will take riders from the University grounds up on to the mountain near Rhodes Memorial.

Csak said it was "a great privilege" taking the Absa Cape Epic back through Table Mountain National Park. "We really appreciate the opportunity to stage part of the race on such an iconic landmark again. It is a great introduction to Cape Town for our foreign visitors and will create lasting memories for them."

The devastation caused by the fires on the Southern Peninsula forced the Cape Town Cycle Tour to cut back its 109km route on Sunday and riders will do an "out and back" course of 47km.

Absa Cape Epic Marketing and Communications manager Sarah Harrop wished the Cycle Tour the best of luck with their event. "They had a tough decision to make, but in the end it was a good one," said Harrop. "We'll be backing their plan to pay tribute to the rescue services for their work on the fires in the past week and to also focus attention on cycling safety."

Some facts about Table Mountain:

  • It is part of the Table Mountain National Park ( TMNP), a name given to the park in 1998. Prior to that it was known as the Cape Peninsula National Park;
  • TMNP is approximately 25 000 hectares in size;
  • TMNP is just one of 21 national parks run by South African National Parks.
  • The TMNP is surrounded entirely by a City and is therefore fragmented by urban development and privately-owned land. This, combined with the fact that it is primarily an open access park with only four managed pay points, has resulted in it being the most visited of all National Parks. A total of 4.2 million people visit it each year;
  • The 4.2 million visitors are made up of about 1.5 million people going through pay points. The balance are people using the open access areas of the park for various activities such as hiking , trail running, horse riding and mountain biking;
  • TMNP contains approximately 160km of cycling track. Access is gained via day permits or annual activity permits;
  • Table Mountain is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world;
  • TMNP is rich in floral biodiversity and is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site;
  • TMNP is home to an amazing 8 200 plant species – of which around 80% are fynbos. The British Isles, three-and-a-half times the size of the TMNP, has less than 1 500 plant species. The most common vegetation type in the TMNP is fynbos (meaning fine bush). Fynbos is fire-dependent vegetation that needs to burn around every 15 years to stimulate new growth and ensure that plant and animal communities remain healthy. However, because of the proximity of houses to the TMNP, fires that would be beneficial to the vegetation are often extinguished. If Fynbos does not burn in about 20 to 30 years it becomes moribund, which can result in the extinction of some species. Many of the plants that occur in the TMNP are endemic – they occur nowhere else on earth. There are 1 406 threatened plant species, 300 of which are endangered or critically endangered, and 29 plant species have already become extinct;
  • Table Mountain is featured on Cape Town's flag and on the City's logo;
  • Table Mountain got its name because of its flat top;
  • The highest point of Table Mountain is 1 086m (3 563 feet) above sea level. It's called Maclear's Beacon after the man who built a stone cairn at the site in 1865. The beacon was built for a trigonometric survey;
  • Today there are more than 350 trails to get to the top of Table Mountain;
  • The cableway that transports visitors to the top was built in 1929. The capacity of the first cable car was 25 people. Today it can carry 60 visitors to the top;
  • Hoerikwaggo – "Mountain in the Sea" – is the original name given to the mountain chain by the indigenous Khoisan people of the Cape;
  • Table Mountain is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Cape Town, and approximately 800 000 people visit it each year;
  • The most common animal found on the mountain is the rock hyrax or dassie, a mammal that resembles a guinea pig;
  • Table Mountain is thought to be one of the oldest mountains in the world. The rocks of the mountain are approximately 600-million years old. The rocks at the base of the mountain are shale and the rocks at the western side are Cape granite;
  • The Cape Point part of the TMNP is rich in cultural and natural heritage, and is one of the top tourist destinations in South Africa. Due to the variety of wildlife that occurs there it is the only section of the TMNP that is fenced, and visitors should look out for Eland, Red Hartebeest, Bontebok and Zebra;
  • At Cape Point visitors can see the two lighthouses that adorn the most south-western point of Africa. One of these is still fully functional and is accessible by foot or by the Flying Dutchman funicular;
  • The Cape of Good Hope section of the TMNP is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and offers hiking, surfing, angling, picnicking, beaching and cycling opportunities against the spectacular backdrop of the mountains and coastline of the Cape Peninsula;
  • Boulders Penguin Colony in Simonstown is home to a unique and endangered land-based colony of African Penguins. This colony is one of only a few in the world, and the site has become famous and a popular international tourist destination;
  • Signal Hill is the northernmost tip of the terrestrial area of the TMNP and offers excellent views of the City and harbour. It is from here that the noon day gun marks midday in Cape Town;
  • Table Mountain is 240-million years old, and is one of the oldest mountains in the world (The Alps are a relatively youthful 40-million years old);
  • Table Mountain was once three times higher than its eroded remnant form today;
  • If it were not for the fresh water supply from Table Mountain's Platteklip stream, Cape Town would have been located at the safer natural harbour of Langebaan on the West Coast;
  • The TMNP Marine Protected Area is home to the marine Big Five: the Great White Shark, the Southern Right Whale, the Elephant Seal, the Humpback Whale and the Minke Whale;
  • The TMNP's exceptional marine biodiversity is the result of the mixing of the warm Agulhas and the cold Benguela currents;
  • The mountains and the seas of the Table Mountain National Park are regarded as the driver of the regional tourist economy and made a cumulative contribution to South Africa's gross domestic product of R 377 million from 1998–2003.
  • The Chacma Baboons on the Cape Peninsula forage for shellfish;
  • There is a lake in the Cape of Good Hope Section of the TMNP that has no rivers that lead into it: It is kept full only by underground water;
  • TMNP has the world's highest concentration of Peregrine Falcons – a cliff roosting aerial predator that kills birds in mid flight;
  • Rhodes Memorial, built in 1912, stands on the slopes of Devil's Peak and within Table Mountian National Park. This National Monument was designed by Sir Herbert Baker as a tribute to Cecil John Rhodes, who at the age of 34 became one of the most powerful mining magnates of all time.