The 18th edition of the Cape Epic got underway in Somerset West, South Africa on Sunday.
Often referred to as the 'Tour de France of Mountainbiking', the 8-day event opened with a testing 24 kilometre prologue stage that included more than 700 metres of climbing.
Team BMC MTB Racing, consisting of French cycling legend Pauline Ferrand Prevot and her South African partner Robyn De Groot, set the quickest time in the women's competition, ahead of the all South African Team Faces Rola duo of Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill.
Team Symbtech ZA's Swiss-South African pair Ariane Luthi and Amy Wakefield took third place.
In the men's competition, the top three all finished within a minute of each other.
South Africa's Matthew Beers is the defending champion and with new partner Christopher Blevins of the United States, they proved quickest for Team Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized.
Germany's Georg Egger and Lukas Baum of Speed Company Racing took second, ahead of Team Canyon Northwave MTB, consisting of current European and World champion Andreas Seewald, also of Germany, and Czech world number two Martin Stosek.
The event gets a lot tougher from here - Monday's Stage 1 stretches to 92 kilometres and has a gruelling 2850 metres of climbing, all around the Laurensford Wine Estate.