World-renowned mountaineer and polar adventurer, Alex Harris, took up the challenge of riding the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race this year. At 25 years of age in 1996, Harris was the youngest person ever to lead an expedition to Mount Everest.
Harris compared riding the Cape Epic and climbing Mount Everest. "This is good training for anyone who wants to climb Mount Everest. The difference is obviously that you're here for a couple of days compared to two months, the weather conditions are vastly different, but you feel pretty lousy with both challenges."
The lessons he learned climbing Mount Everest that he can apply to the Cape Epic are to take it one day at a time, focusing only on each stage and realizing that the following day will be something completely different.
After joining the Mountain Club of South Africa in 1992, Harris started to fulfill his desire to climb some of the world's highest mountains. In 1996, Alex became the youngest person ever to lead an expedition to Mount Everest. Harris further became the first South African to climb on all seven continents and has climbed the seven summits, the highest mountain on each of the continents. He is an established speaker on the school and corporate circuit, a keen caver and always seeks adventure in faraway places. When he is not at the top of a peak, deep underground or sharing his story on stage, you are sure to find him tearing along a stretch of tar on his beloved road bike, preparing for his next journey.
Harris won five gold and one silver medal in his age category (35 to 39) at the 2010 South African Track Cycling Championships. He also won the Freedom Challenge "Race Across South Africa" (RASA) in 2010 in 14 days and eight hours. In 2011, Harris successfully defended his Freedom Challenge title and is the current record holder.
Harris is racing the Cape Epic with Renato Sabbioni.
After stage 1, Harris said that all things considered they had had a good day, despite a broken chain. "It was a hot day! The route was crazy - some fantastic sections welcomed us, while others were insane and you couldn't ride there. I wouldn't even take some people there for climbing," said Harris.
"Our goal is to finish in the top 100, and we're still flirting with that. My partner is so super strong - it is a thrilling opportunity. We're going to complete it within our limits and if we make the top 100 that will be awesome. If not, we're still going to have a great time. The Cape Epic is totally living up to my expectations. It's an incredibly executed event. It's world class. Not just the trails, but the logistics too. We're blown away."
Harris offered some parting words, some that he might have to tell himself a few more times this week until the Cape Epic ends on Sunday: "Never give up, and I don't mean just the race. But never give up on the dream - the days, weeks, years even that it sometimes take to live what's in your heart."