On Saturday night, at a house around the length of eight R1 coins distance from fourth avenue in Parkhurst, the Absa Cape Epic was toasted in the most unique way. Dan Nicholl, the MC, praise singer and Absa Cape Epic fanboy, hosted the inaugural Epic Wine Tasting do at his house in Parkhurst, which is far too close to the Jolly Roger for his own good, and yet just far enough away from the evils of the R8 parking toll trolls.
Dan, when not busy showing just why he is perhaps the best master of ceremonies in the land at the Epic, would stop by the many wine farms the Epic visits or skirts by.
He, we were told, “uses the race as an excellent opportunity to visit the vineyards through which the race meanders, discovering unknown gems and celebrated favourites from one of the world’s great wine-growing areas.
Dan does a little tasting (important to sustain the voice), and rather a lot of shopping – and this year, 29 cases of the region’s best vino have made their way to Johannesburg. From the bold cap classiques of Bon Courage and Weltevrede, to the polished pinot noirs of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver, Dan has collected a splendid vinous snapshot of this year’s race – which culminates in the Epic Wine Tasting – as we tried out cultivars and vintages that caught Dan’s eye this year.”
There were eight wines, starting with a sparkling something and ending with a red something. They were all very good. They weren’t beer, but they were good. Dan told us the wines were, in turn, “cheeky”, “fruity”, “acidic”, “pretentious”, “simple” and “could do with a rest”. To bring it all together, the wines had all the elements of Barry Ronge, or any other number of film critics. That’s being nasty, I know. I’m sorry. Perhaps it was the wine talking.
The Epic Wine Tasting was a reunion of sorts, a celebration for those riders who had not seen each other since the Absa Cape Epic finished in Lourensford on April 1. Kevin Vermaak, the race founder, flew up from Cape Town for it; so, too, did Jan Braai, who cooked his signature seared steak and his not-so-signature-but-damn-fine ostrich burgers. Jan is a keen cyclist himself, and we are determined to get Dan on to the sparkling KTM mountain bike that sits in the dark depths of his garage like the gimp in Pulp Fiction.
Clayton Duckworth and Max Gebhardt, my teammates from Team Absa, were there. Max had a goofy wine grin on his face and was talking about riding the Epic again next near, while Clay, who gave the best hugs every morning at the Epic, made me laugh and cry with memories and stories from the Epic.
Greg James from the JAG Foundation, who had finished the Epic despite breaking ribs and a finger on the second-last stage, had flown up especially for the wine tasting.
Ashwin Willemse spoke of how he had initially agreed to ride the race for JAG, but could not fit in all the training and withdrew some months before.
Derek Watts from Carte Blanche and the Jolly Roger, who brought a bottle of whisky to the wine tasting, suggested he might ride the Epic. Oh, how we laughed. Derek also caught a cab to Dan’s place to avoid paying Parkhurst parking fees. See, those inserts on Carte Blanche even scare him.
Dee, Dan’s wife and owner, allowed us the run of her house and was, as always, the perfect hostess.
The talk, after bottle number five, I think, a cheeky large red with bass notes and soprano tones with a lingering aftertaste of the Arctic Monkeys, was about who would ride the Epic next year. Greg is already in, and has my mate Zee Ismail as a partner. Walt Cairns is in, Max says he’s riding, Gugu Zulu and his girlfriend, Letshego Moshoeu are in, while Clay may have to think about it.
Kevin told me they were planning something special for next year’s Epic. They want the 10th Absa Cape Epic to be an enjoyable one, tough, but not so tough that people will burn effigies of him. “So, will you ride next year,” he asked me. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe. Perhaps. Yeah …” Kev smiled: “Didn’t you say ‘never again’?” I did, but you never know. Maybe it was the wine talking