Some years ago, a man with the same first name as I, sat down in a vacant office in The Star building in Sauer Street and showed me a Powerpoint presentation on a mountain bike race he was putting together.
He was going to bring the best mountain bikers in the world to South Africa, and wring every ounce of sweat and pain out of them over the space of a week and a day along some of the most beautiful trails in the world. It would be epic, he said.
Kevin Vermaak said it would be the Cape Epic.
It is now the Absa Cape Epic and every year I have promised Vermaak I would fly down to the Cape to cover what has become perhaps the most important mountain bike race in the world.
Every year something has come up, and every year, I have watched from afar as each race is pronounced better than the one before. Next year I will attend my first Absa Cape Epic, but as a rider and not a journalist.
What was I thinking?
I blame Pippa Hunt, an old friend who is doing PR and marketing for Absa. She called me up when I was three Hansas into an afternoon off, in a vulnerable frame of mind, and asked me if I’d like to be on Team Absa for the Cape Epic.
After three Hansas it seemed like a good idea. Everything seems like a good idea when Hansa is around. Just ask Vuyo. And so I said yes.
Pippa called back the next day to check. The wonder of the Hansas had worn off, but I still said yes. I’ve said “yes” several times in the last two months, as the good people at Absa have called several times to check that I am definitely in.
The Cape Epic is no race to play games with. They want to make sure you are serious. Deadly, train until your quads burn serious. To make sure I wouldn’t weasel out of it, I took to Twitter to announce my participation. Twitter is the new place to put your hand on the Bible and swear an oath. One of the first to reply was Nic Dawes, editor of the Mail & Guardian, who had ridden the Epic a few years before. I cannot remember all of his reply, but one word stands out: “Pain”.
Kevin Evans, the multiple South African mountain bike champion, also mentioned pain, and suggested I suck up to his dad, who is putting the route |together. The route will be announced next week on October 26, but my preparations are in full swing. I have an “agent”, a friend, Nikki Ferreira, who has taken on the task of making sure I have all the products necessary.
She took me to lunch with KTM South Africa, and after a few Hansas at Peddlars on the Bend, we have decided I would look sweet upon the seat of their bicycles. This week I will take delivery of a 26-inch MTB and a road bike. See, Hansa does you good. Andrew McLean of Cyclelab has offered to do a professional fitting for me and is setting me up with a training programme on www.fittrack.co.za, which I will start as soon as the chest infection I picked up running in Wellington, New Zealand, has cleared up.
Ah, training. There’s the thing. Time in the saddle, they say. Stick to the programme, they say. You’ll get through it okay, they say. They say a lot.
And so I will have to ride a lot, and gym a lot, and rest a lot, and not drink a lot of Hansa, although we may need to negotiate on that last one. The reason I ride a bike is to make space for beer. It’s the reason my brother, Barry, rides a bike. It’s the reason I will be riding the Absa Cape Epic at the end of March next year.
The next 150-odd days are going to be a time of discovery for me, where I will realise limitations and learn to negotiate or overcome them. The next 150 days are going to be filled with some pain, but, also, a lot of love. Hey, Kevin, I’m finally coming to the Absa Cape Epic. Hope you’re ready for me.