The most televised mountain bike stage race in the world, the Absa Cape Epic, will be in its 10th year in 2013. This legendary eight-day duo team stage race, which attracts the world's most accomplished and seasoned riders, will take place from March 17-24 next year. With the ladies' division set to be as exciting as the men's, distinguished riders Hanlie Booyens and her partner Sharon Laws, will be aiming to give 110% and celebrate the 10th Cape Epic as well as the growth of the sport.
Thirty nine-year-old Hanlie Booyens, who lives and trains in Stellenbosch, will be participating with 38-year-old Sharon Laws as team Pragma Ladies. Booyens finished first in the ladies' category in 2004 and 2009, with partner Laws. Further to this, she has took second place in 2005, fourth place in 2008 and third place in 2011, with her respective racing partners. "I don't know what makes me come back for more. This is a question I've asked myself many, many times. Maybe the hype. Maybe the personal challenge or maybe it's the friends I've made for life. It's a strange thing - I both hate and love it!" said Booyens.
Booyens will ride for physical asset management company Pragma, for the first time in 2013. She said tongue in cheek, "It's not a case of who you are but who you know. I've been in discussions with Pragma on previous occasions, but this was the first year where it worked for all involved. They're now such an integral part of the race that it made a lot of sense to approach them for assistance and we're immensely grateful for their willingness to support us in 2013."
After taking first place in the ladies' category in 2009, for the second time, Laws and Booyens made a pact to come back for the 10th edition of the race. "It will be a reunion, an anniversary of the start of a great friendship and a thank you for 10 years of solid bike racing! A podium spot will be a fantastic bonus but in all honesty we're here to celebrate the 10th anniversary being the ladies winners of that very first Cape Epic!
"We only train together when Sharon is in South Africa - she'll be in Stellenbosch from the end of November. Hopefully we'll train together at least once or twice a week. I work full time and she has a serious road race schedule, so it's not always possible to ride together that often. But we know each other very well, so we're not too concerned about that," said Booyens. Laws, who currently resides in Europe, is looking forward to Booyens giving her some mountain bike coaching sessions in between her road race training programme in November.
In preparation for the 2013 Cape Epic, Booyens admits she rides as much and as sensibly as her day job and body permit her to, and then some more. "I tend to overdo things, so for 2013 the plan is to focus on quality and not quantity - although I love those slow rides that take an entire day. With the Cape Epic, I think the danger is to peak too soon and be overcooked by mid-March. With regards to diet, generally the goal is a healthy, well balanced diet with not too many restrictions. My Achilles heel is Coke. I know it's terrible, but I love it and anything from a bakery, too."
Laws' training and diet is not that much different. "My job is a professional road racer, so I train on the bike six days a week between one to five hours a day in addition to core stability on alternate days and some swimming for recovery. The intensity and length of the rides depend on where I'm in my season and what races are coming up. In preparation for the Cape Epic, I expect to be doing some longer rides and getting used to riding on the dirt again. I like to eat good food, unprocessed and healthy. I also enjoy cooking and making my own energy bars and treats. One of the benefits of being a pro is having the time to concentrate on following a good diet. Good coffee and dark chocolate also feature high on my priority list, but it has to be good quality otherwise it's not worth having!" said Laws.
Laws' reckons there are several ingredients that are necessary for a successful finish. "Team work, a good partner, enjoying it, luck, fitness, realistic goal setting and expectations," said Laws. To this Booyens adds: "Having fun with your partner. If you can be a positive, happy team you're 80% there. Obviously you need the mileage, you need luck with mechanicals and staying healthy and injury free, but in the end you will hate it if you lose joy, whether you race or just ride."
An architect by profession, Booyens enjoys sport and relaxation activities in her free time. "I love taking my dog, Danielle, for hikes in the mountains with friends. I also enjoy swimming in remote pools, watching the sunset over the ocean and spending time on the farm with my family. Anything outside I guess. I think the 2013 Cape Epic will be my last big stage race, as a wannabe racer anyway. Some other goals are more career driven. Most importantly I just want to appreciate the privilege of life as I know it and live in gratitude thereof. You know - make every second count."