24 March 2019

An amazing final day and final stage ride into Val de Vie in Paarl. Weather conditions were again perfect, with a misty and cool morning giving way to clear blue skies and warm temperatures as riders took on the final 70km stage of the 8-day Absa Cape Epic, the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race. There were Aussies aplenty, from Team Shimano Brendan Johnston and Cameron Ivory who finished their first Epic adventure in 24th place in a world-class field, to those further back in the field who gave up time with families, took time off work, and put their lives on hold to achieve something incredible. For Brendan and Cameron, it was a big learning curve in the toughest mountain bike stage race on the planet.

“You need to know how hard it actually is to know how big the climbs are and how tough the stages are so you can prepare for it. We will definitely put this one down to experience and know what you are in for next time,” said Brendan. “The first stage I said was one of the hardest marathon one day rides I have ever done. To back up for eight days in a row, such epic days, it is pretty hard. When you are lacking a bit of form in the legs like I was over here, it makes it a tough week both physically and mentally. If you are just off the pace it is pretty brutal out there,” said Cameron.

Team Ani-Mal was made up of Anita Narula and Malcolm Lyndsay, but sadly Anita had to ride the final two days solo with Mal suffering from a stomach bug, forced to watch from the sidelines as Anita did the team proud. 

“That was a great stage but doing it solo for the last two days was mentally challenging and without Mal it was very emotional. I tried to share as much as I could, to dig in deep and go as hard as I can on each stage. It is a little bitter sweet, but this is mountain bike riding and you have to take the good with the bad and with Mal having an upset tummy I just had to finish for him.”

Narula came through the Epic Qualification system, earning a spot at Reef to Reef and recommends anyone else to follow the same pathway.

“I qualified from the Reef to Reef in Cairns in Queensland and made the journey all the way here to South African and what a journey it has been. Get qualified, enter an event at home, get training. Anything is possible.”

Linc’n’Lister team of Lincoln Carolan and Peter Lister have ridden a few big events together, including The Pioneer in New Zealand. Riding here for the A21 team that raises awareness and tries to halt human trafficking and slavery, they were an emotional pair at the finish line today. 

“That is awesome, that is one tough week, but we stuck in there, ground it out and made it. Team racing is the best kind, to do it with the best mate together and get through it all together is amazing,” said Lincoln. “This is the Tour de France of Mountain biking, if you get the chance you have to do it no matter how much it costs or how hard it is to get here, it is the chance of a lifetime. My wife Lara was here helping all the way and family and friends back home on facebook, they have been all over us all week on social media pumping us up, they have been amazing.”

Peter said anything that could go wrong this week, did go wrong. But they came through regardless.

“We had a dream run in the Pioneer but almost everything went wrong for us this time, tested the friendship, every day. But what a finish, what a race, what a team mate. We could have quit a thousand times every day, but that makes it all the more special to be at the finish,” said Lister. “The A21 crew in South Africa have been amazing for us, we are a long way from home, and they have helped with accommodation, food and gifts and encouragement along the way. They were strangers before this but are huge friends now. It was a great cause a great week and a great community to be doing it in.”

Mark (Richard) Knowles rode with his Cairns based Kiwi mate Peter Craig and like Narula, has come through qualifying with a lottery spot at Reef to Reef.

“That is just the best. We have had a ball. The hills, wow, so tough. I think the hills make it so special. I won a lottery entry at the Reef to Reef and went from there. Peter and I had originally teamed up to do Reef to Reef, but Peter had a little accident a week out, but I won the entry and here we are. If anyone gets that opportunity, ride the Aussie events and take it.”

For all of the Australians, check the results at www.cape-epic.com