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Hannele to give it stick

The women’s race should be just as exciting as the men’s as the Absa Cape Epic cycle race, now in its seventh year, gets underway in Wellington on Sunday.

The race has fast become one of the leading institutions on the global mountain biking calendar. As the largest team mountain bike stage race in the world and the only team stage race to be added to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) calendar, the race annually hosts the world’s most accomplished and legendary mountain bike riders.

Cape Town’s Hannele Steyn-Kotze will be participating with team mate Ivonne Kraft. Steyn-Kotze needs no introduction to the sport and has Springbok colours in biathlon, triathlon, duathlon, road cycling as well as mountain biking. She has participated in all six Absa Cape Epic events to date and won the women’s division in 2005. She has also represented South Africa at 10 World Championships, eleven Triathlon World Cups and nine mountain bike World Cups.

Says Steyn-Kotze: ÔÇ£I want to do my very best and finish as a team. I’ve been training for the race since last year September. I’m a nutritionist, so I try to follow a healthy but balanced diet.ÔÇØ She will be competing with Kraft, who also is no stranger to the race. ÔÇ£Ivonne is from Germany, so we don’t train together, but know each other well.ÔÇØ To her, the most important ingredient to compete in this race is ÔÇ£endurance training, eating correctly and having the passion. I love to ride my bike, especially in nature, and also love that it keeps me fit and in good physical shapeÔÇØ.

Thirty-six-year-old Jeannette Walder, who lives and trains in Plettenberg Bay, will be participating with team-mate Nicky Booyens. Walder has competed in the Attakwas, the Sani2C and other mountain biking events, but she is more of an adventure racer participating in events such as the Bull. This will be her first Absa Cape Epic. ÔÇ£We want to finish as strong as we can without losing site of the fun side of life.ÔÇØ Walder’s advice to other participants is to ÔÇ£never give up. Keep hydrated and never lose site of the fact that you’re doing it because you love itÔÇØ.

Laetitia Botha, 24, lives and trains in Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng and participated in the Absa Cape Epic for the first time last year. She will be riding with team-mate Sanet Smal. ÔÇ£We’re aiming to be on the podium in at least one stage. We know this is a high expectation and that the competition this year will be strong. Just being able to finish is also an accomplishment, but to settle for that is not in our nature. It’s my dream to get a podium finish and I believe with a focused mind, big heart and God’s grace, anything is possible ÔÇô even standing on one of those steps!ÔÇØ What keeps this athlete motivated? ÔÇ£I love riding my bike, especially in no-man’s land! I feel so alive, blessed and carefree when it’s just me, my bike and nature.ÔÇØ

Naomi Hansen lives and trains in Noosa, Australia and will be competing with team-mate Rebecca Locke. Having participated in last year’s Absa Cape Epic, she says ÔÇ£I loved it last year and decided to do it again by entering the women’s divisionÔÇØ. Her career highlights include third place in the women’s category in the Crocodile Trophy, participation in last year’s TransAlps, fourth place in the 2010 Otway Odyssey and third place in this year’s Wildside event.

Says Hansen: ÔÇ£I reckon consistency is one of the most important aspects in this event. I do between 500 and 600 km a week, depending on work commitments, and don’t follow any special diet. I just love riding and really look forward to this year’s event.ÔÇØ

From 21-28 March, all eyes will be on the Western Cape as the world’s top riders vie for position in what is billed to be the most competitive event in the race’s history. Covering a distance of 722 km up approximately 14 635m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.


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