Blind adventurer and motivational speaker Hein Wagner will take on next year's Absa Cape Epic with experienced cyclist Gerrie Olivier as Team Pragma Beyond Vision. It will be the first time in history that a blind person participates in the mountain bike stage race.
Gerrie Olivier, Managing Director of Pragma Acuity and four-time Cape Epic finisher, invited Hein Wagner to be his partner. They met each other at the 2010 Physical Asset Management Thought Leadership (PAMTL) Conference, found common adventure ground and agreed to tackle the race on a tandem mountain bike with the goal to comfortably complete each day.
"I'm a keen cyclist but due to my work commitments, I don't ride to win but rather to enjoy it and keep fit," said Olivier. "This will be a brand new challenge for me, something that I thrive on, and it's heartwarming that we'll be doing it for a good cause, raising funds in the process."
Wagner has set aside the fact that he has been totally blind from birth to live a fulfilling and abundant life and never hesitates or stands back for any challenge. "I've taken on many daring adventures such as mountain climbing, sailing from Cape Town to Rio, running several marathons and becoming the fastest blind driver in the world (he holds the World Land Speed record for a blind driver), but this will definitely be the most physically challenging event I've take on to date. Seven hundred and seven kilometres over eight days will not be easy, especially not over the kind of terrain that even sighted cyclists struggle with."
However, he has total confidence in his pilot. "Gerrie is an experienced, skilled and sometimes daring cyclist. A specially adapted Cannondale mountain bike tandem, better known as 'Worshond' will be put through its paces and in preparation, we recently completed the Karoo to Coast, a 100km mountain bike race. Although all went well and we finished in good time (five hours and 25 minutes), we both agree there are still lots to be done."
Wagner started the VisionTrust, the beneficiary of their participation, three years ago. "The main aim of the trust is to make the world a more accessible place for persons living with disabilities. For example, in order for a blind person to work a standard computer, he requires specially adapted screen reading software. This software could cost anything between R10,000 and R15,000 and could be the only obstacle for a blind person to land a meaningful job. The VisionTrust provides blind and other disabled persons with free access to these and similar essential aids." Those interested can sponsor Wagner and Olivier per kilometre or simply make a one-off donation.
During the next seven months, Team Pragma's training routine will combine indoor and off-road saddle time. "Computerised indoor trainers will allow us to synchronise our remote daily training via the internet whilst simulating the same routes and difficulty levels and comparing our heart rates," said Olivier. "The off-road training will entail a mix of flat dirt roads for us to gel as racing team as well as 'dungeon explorations' to master the technical challenges along the route. One of the challenges we face as a team is to get hold of an audible Polar heart monitor that can keep Hein posted on his heart condition."
Besides Pragma's two teams riding next year's Cape Epic, the company is also responsible for two of the most important services during the gruelling event, namely the on route pro and amateur tech zones and daily bike wash. This includes receiving the bikes on the finish line and securely placing them in the bike park. "This is a natural fit as our company specialises in providing physical asset management improvement services and products to our clients around the globe," said Olivier. "We're perfectly positioned to do the same for the 1,200 cyclists participating, ensuring that their bikes are clean in support of getting them in a perfect working condition to take on the next stage."