Business owner Hannele Steyn is preparing herself for the 10th edition of the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race on March 17-24. The 46-year-old has competed in every Cape Epic race since the inaugural edition in 2004 and hopes to become the first woman to do 10 Cape Epics.
Steyn will be racing with good friend Kenny Scheepers on the Chris Willemse/Passion4Wholeness team this year.
"I've done all nine Cape Epics to date, and 10 years are quite a long time out of someone's life, but looking back, it was all worth it. Every hour spent training, every tear shed, every drop of sweat and every bit of pain just contributed to me becoming a better person and facing life's challenges a little easier," said Steyn. "I've seen some of the most beautiful places in our country in a way few people have seen it. It's given me many fantastic friends and taught me a lot about facing various difficulties."
"Crossing the finish line on the last day is the best part of my Cape Epic experience. The worst part is the nerves when you race for podium, the selfishness that you have to have when you prepare for racing and not just finishing it. Others include any mechanical problems, falls or illnesses. In 2011, I became ill during the Cape Epic, and this made it the toughest edition of the race so far." Steyn has used her strong climbing ability to help her through previous editions.
According to Steyn, the most important ingredient to a successful race is getting in the mileage. "The first stage is always the most difficult for me. The Cape Epic is a life experience. There are no words to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line, and only the ones who have crossed that line will understand the feeling, but it's a feeling of pride. Don't under-estimate the Epic - train hard!"
Steyn started mountain biking in 1997. "Every year has its own highs and lows, but 2006, when I won, was an amazing highlight for me. Other memorable experiences include my second place in 2010 and every stage I've won."
"Also, riding it with Greg Minnaar was unforgettable. One of the funniest moments in the race itself was when Yvonne Kraft, from Germany, and my partner in 2009 told me to not touch my brakes on the downhills, because I'm slowing her down."
Steyn returns every year "because this race is like a drug. My goal for this year is to finish my 10th Epic as the only women who would've done it."
Her biggest career achievements so far have been winning the world triathlon championship in 1994, starting her own company and launching her own health muesli.
Styen owns Passion4Wholeness, which helps people with their lifestyle, does training programmes for cyclists and triathletes, bike set-ups, mountain bike workshops, etc.
Steyn's Cape Epic history, including partners and top placings
2004: Johan Greeff - 2nd, mixed category
2005: Zoe Frost - 1st, ladies category
2006: Pieter van Wyk
2007: Greg Minnaar
2008: Leanne Brown-Waterson
2009: Fourie Kotze
2010: Yvonne Kraft - 2nd, ladies category
2011: Leana de Jager - 5th, ladies category
2012: Naomi Hansen - 6th, ladies category