Since 2015, unpaved roads have been included in the Schaal Sels course, which implicated that the race was watched both interior and abroad. This increasing international media attention has led to Schaal Sels being split up in 2018 into Schaal Sels Merksem and Antwerp Port Epic. In this way, further international growth and local character in Merksem do not interfere with each other. Schaal Sels Merksem goes back to its roots, with local rounds in and around Merksem and arrival at the Bredabaan. The Antwerp Port Epic continues with the concept of the unpaved roads and the cobblestones-kilometers by the Port of Antwerp and the Polder, but with a new starting and arrival place.
The name refers to two places that are important to the race : on one hand the city of Antwerp that has been the starting and arrival place since 2018; on the other hand, the Port of Antwerp which is a considerable part of the course.
The word Epic refers both to the past and the present of the contest. Jacques-Charles Sels was involved in the exploration of an epic three-day stage race between Milan and Antwerp in the context of the 1920 Summer Olympic Games. Not only the distance, but also the mountains and the lack of asphalt roads made the planned race an epic course with a special character.
In 2015, Schaal Sels returned to its roots by including unpaved roads in the course. Add the rough cobblestones and the occasional heavy wind in the open fields through the Polder and all elements are present for an epic competition. This was also apparent during the previous editions. The Antwerp Port Epic will continue this well-known concept from 2018 onwards.
A little after 12 o'clock on Sunday, September 2, the first Antwerp Port Epic will depart at the Shengenplein on ‘t Eilandje in Antwerp, in the shadow of the prestigious new Port House. Underneath the Port House, on the Zaha Hadidplein, the team buses will be set up just like in 2017. After more than 200 kilometers of competition through the port, passing impressive cranes and meter-high containers, through the windy polders in the north of Antwerp and over the unpaved strips and cobbled roads, the first winner of the Antwerp Port Epic will be known. He can raise his hands at the same place where he left about five hours earlier, at the level of the Shengenplein.
From 2018 on, Antwerp Port Epic will be known as a UCI 1.1 competition in early September. This moment on the calendar, together with the unpaved strips, will ensure a spectacular competition where the world class players from the cyclo-cross battle against the toppers on the road. The ambition of the organization is to continue to grow towards a UCI competition "Hors Categorie".