You won't see South African David George on the elite men's results of the Cape Epic mountain bike race, but he stands out in the race, wearing the event's zebra striped 'Outcast Jersey'. The honour was introduced in 2010 to allow riders whose partners have had to drop out of the race to keep going, with special rules applying to their continued participation.
Unlike a provision for amateur Cape Epic racers who have lost their partner during the two-person team event - often due to fatigue or equipment failure - which allow them to partner up with another orphaned rider, the pros are only allowed to continue racing on their own.
"Unfortunately, due to the fact that pro riders often have conflicting sponsors, they can't just form new teams in the way that the amateur riders are able to do," said Kevin Vermaak, founder and director of the Cape Epic. "Furthermore, it's also dangerous for pro riders to ride with amateur riders as their skill levels are so vastly different. Historically UCI professional riders would just stop riding at that point."
During the 2009 Cape Epic, when New Zealand Olympic rider Kashi Leuchs lost his partner during the early stages of the race, he suggested the idea of an Outcast Jersey.
"We thought it was a great idea and offered a wonderful solution," said Vermaak. "It was first introduced in 2010, whereby pro riders would still be able to participate alone and be potential Cape Epic finishers.
"The Outcast Jersey had to be clearly recognisable - and that's how we came up with the idea of a white jersey with zebra stripes to be worn by solo-riding pro riders. To date, David George is the most high-profiled rider ever to wear an Outcast Jersey. George lost his partner, Kevin Evans, after he fell during stage 1 and broke his collarbone."
The rules for pro riders participating with the Outcast Jersey are that others should be able to spot them easily, and that they may not interfere with the race whatsoever. "For example, at a singletrack section, George will have to wait for other pro riders to go down first as to not hold them up. The Outcast Jersey pro riders may also not benefit teams in any way, by allowing other teams to draft behind them or share equipment as they would be able to do if they were still full participating teams.
"They are, however, able to start with the elite groups, as long as there is no interference and it doesn't affect the racing results."
When George arrived at the water points on Wednesday during stage 3, he was greeted with loud cheers by fans and spectators. The good news for supporters is that he is still able to finish the race as a Cape Epic finisher.
Commenting on the experience of wearing the Outcast Jersey, George said, "The Outcast Jersey wasn't the jersey I pictured myself wearing. I'm happy to be able to continue albeit a bit disappointed. However, I'm starting to see the brighter side of life and am overwhelmed by the support from spectators, sponsors, crews and the race organisers. This race is brutal, but it rocks!"
Evans is back in Plettenberg Bay, recovering after a complicated but successful operation where a plate was inserted into his collar bone to supplement an already existing plate. He is following the Cape Epic online for the first time in his life.
"Evans has always been a top 10 finisher in every stage of all previous seven Cape Epics apart from two stages," said Vermaak. "There is a slim chance that he'll be able to attend the final day at the Lourensford Wine Estate."
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