By Nic Lamond in South Africa
As the Cape Epic heads to its final stop, the casualty list keeps climbing. That's not surprising. Not only are the distances participants covering long and technically demanding in unbearable heat, but the terrain is littered with obstacles waiting to snare deraillleurs or destroy wheelsets. Even if your body can handle the pain, your bike may not. At the end of stage six, 180 (17.7%) of the racers who started in Knysna had abandoned the race with mechanical breakdowns or physical injuries that make going even another pedal stroke further impossible.
That is why the race of one individual is being so eagerly followed by racers and supporters alike. Robbie Kempson is an ex-South African Springbok rugby player and three weeks ago he was weighing in at 115kg. A very fit 115kg, mind you, as his training regime leading up to the 966km race was relentless. Speculation in the race village is rife as to what the big lad weighs now - after six days in the saddle. Yes, Kempson is still riding and has beaten the cut-off time for each stage so far. While the Cannondale Vredestein team has been on the trail for a little under 29 and a half hours, big Kempson is almost at 60!
Kempson's Cape Epic challenge started out as a casual bet between himself and another South African sporting legend, cricketer Brian McMillan. The two then dedicated their rides to charity, raising money for The Big Tree Foundation, a charity created by the Cape Epic to benefit rural children in South Africa. But Brian pulled out before the event even started so all Kempson needed to do was get his large frame onto a bike and take just one pedal stroke at the prologue, six long days ago.
But the fiercely competitive Kempson is still going, determined to prove everyone who believes successful Cape Epic finishers need be equipped with the physique of a whippet wrong.