Great Trek means days of travel for some racers
The ninth edition of the Absa Cape Epic is drawing riders from all corners of the globe onto South African soil to compete in the SHC-categorized mountain bike stage race. The race, which takes place from March 25 to April 1, will kick off with its prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and will finish eight days, 781km and 16300m of climbing later at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West. The race welcomes riders of 40 different nationalities to the start line.
As many World Cup pros discovered in the past two weeks, getting to South Africa from many places around the globe is an epic trip. Here are some examples of the lengthy trips some racers are making.
The movement of cyclists from around the world for the Cape Epic has been referred to as the Great Trek and that comes as no surprise with cyclists such as Philip Johnson, 31, from Cottesloe Beach in Perth; Teresa DeWitt, 50, who lives on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean; and Kenneth Koh, 46, coming from Singapore to test their cycling ability, in what will likely be one of the most challenging editions of the Cape Epic. More than half of the international cyclists will spend more than 30 hours in transit but agree that it will be well worth the effort once they are on their mountain bikes at this year's event.
Sebastian Kellermayr, 36, from Vienna Austria, a corporate lawyer at the world's biggest law firm, will spend 20 hours in transit. He will have two stopovers on his way to Cape Town - one in Istanbul and one in Johannesburg - and it will take him two days to adjust before the start of the race. Kellermayr, a first time Cape Epic rider, said, "I completed the TransRockies and the TransAlp, but the Cape Epic is still missing. That's why I've decided to do it this year."
Brother of well-known professional cyclist Bart Brentjens, Cas Brentjens, 40, from Singapore, will come back this year for his second Cape Epic. Brentjens will have a 10-hour flight from Singapore to get to the race. "We will make a stopover in Johannesburg to visit the Kruger National Park and do a safari first. I'll be taking a week to rest and meet up with friends before the start of the race." Brentjens, who is a Director of Business Consulting at SAP, a software company, says the Cape Epic is a great mountain bike stage race to participate in. "It's a great chance to ride with and 'against' my brother. I probably finish the race in about his time plus 50 percent more."
Thirty-nine-year-old Angus Simpson from Surrey, London, will participate in his second Cape Epic this year. Simpson, who will have two days to settle in before the race starts, will have a 13-hour flight from London, but luckily has no stopovers. When asked how it came about that he entered the Cape Epic, he said, "A good friend of mine twisted my arm."
Franc Mouwen, a technology entrepreneur from the Netherlands, will be doing the Cape Epic for the first time this year with South African teammate, Gregory Crookes. "I train in the Netherlands and sometimes after work in the Black Forest in Germany," said Mouwen. "Snowy conditions packed like a Michelin-man and guided by a strong LED headlight for months over winter, it's hard to imagine that we'll be cycling in the heat for two weeks." Mouwen, 39, will spend an entire day travelling to Cape Town for the race - he will take a direct flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town.
First-timer Guilherme Brandenburger, 31, from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, will be in transit for 20 hours to get to the race. He will have two stopovers - São Paulo to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Cape Town. Brandenburger, who is a radiologist, says that the race is very famous in Brazil. "Many Brazilians have done the Cape Epic, and I want to take on this challenge." Brandenburger's plans gave him five days to adjust before starting the race.
Coming from the north of France, is Thomas de I'Hamaide, 33. Riding the Cape Epic for his first time, De I'Hamaide will spend 17 hours in transit. When asked how it came about that he entered the race, De I'Hamaide said, "I lived in the Reunion Islands for three years where I did mountain biking and took part in competitions. Some friends of mine did the Cape Epic and convinced the rest of us to ride. This is good, as I like crazy challenges." De I'Hamaide, who is a general practitioner, says he will need two days to get used to the local time and climate before the start.
Real Estate agent from Norway, Ivar Tollefsen, 50, will spend 19 hours in total on the plane before arriving in Cape Town and will have two days before the start of the race. This will be Tollefsen's second Cape Epic. "I participated in last year's Cape Epic and therefore decided to do it again this year," he said.
Sandra Klomp, 47, from Albissola Marina, Italy and Sofia Pezzati, 35, from Ticino, Switzerland will participate as team 4 Wheels Online. It will take Klomp and Pezzati both about 20 hours to get to Cape Town. Klomp, who is a nurse in gynecology surgery, says it has always been her desire to take part in the Cape Epic. "I've always wanted to do this race, and then Sofia asked me to take part with her," she said. Pezzati, who is a teacher, will have two stopovers on her way to Cape Town - Milan to London and London to Cape Town. Pezzati will also celebrate her birthday this year on the first stage of the race.
Originally from Australia, Robert Spinks, 37, now lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Spinks trains in a jungle reserve within the city of Kuala Lumpur called Bukit Kiara. "It has about 30km of very technical trails and is a little known gem for mountain bikers in South East Asia," said Spinks. It will take Spinks about 20 hours to get to Cape Town, having to take two flights - Kuala Lumpur to Dubai and Dubai to Cape Town. Spinks, who works for a Malaysian-based property development company, said, "I plan to change my watch to African time a week before I leave - hopefully that helps." It will be his first Cape Epic. "I'm petrified. I was dared to do the race by a friend I used to ride with in Kuala Lumpur - he's also my racing partner."
Urban planner from Virginia, USA, Charles Buki, 48, will spend a total of 30 hours in transit to get to the start. Buki, who will participate in the Cape Epic for the first time, will have two stopovers - Washington DC to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Cape Town. "My teammate is friends with Bart Brentjens, and that is how we came to enter the Cape Epic," said Buki.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Cape Epic.
Number of riders by nationality
South Africa 782
United States of America 21
New Zealand 8
Czech Republic 3
Russian Federation 2