'Siren' set to soar at Cape Epic | SASCOC - SASCOC

‘Siren’ set to soar at Cape Epic

The first female Gripen pilot of the South African Air Force, 31-year-old Catherine Labuschagne, will participate in her first Absa Cape Epic this year with Ernst Viljoen as team Absalute Mud Movers.  The event, which takes place from 27 March to 3 April 2011, will lead 1 200 cyclists through 707 kilometres of wilderness with 14 550m of climbing to finish eight days later at the Lourensford Wine Estate.

Labuschagne, whose code name is ‘Siren’, says it was after Ernst Viljoen approached her to ride with him on behalf of Absa for the JAG Foundation that she agreed to participate in this year’s event. ÔÇ£I gladly accepted, what an amazing opportunity,ÔÇØ she says.

In her opinion, Labuschagne feels that she and Viljoen make a great team as he has the patience and experience and she is really keen. Viljoen has completed the Absa Cape Epic twice before and has been Team Manager of Team Absa since 2007

Adds Viljoen: ÔÇ£Unfortunately we live far apart ÔÇô Catherine is in Louis Trichardt, and I’m in Cape Town, so we don’t train together all that often. We did manage to ride together in December though and completed the Absa training camp earlier this month.ÔÇØ

Labuschagne’s training programme and diet were compiled by veteran athlete Erica Green. ÔÇ£However, due to work commitments I need to be quite flexible with my training. As far as my diet is concerned, I follow a healthy balanced diet and supplement with protein, glutamine and recovery shakes.ÔÇØ

Labuschagne believes that she has the most important ingredients to successfully complete her first Absa Cape Epic challenge. ÔÇ£It takes hard work, lots of training, commitment and a positive attitude. My advice for other participants would be to always maintain a good sense of humour, especially when things get tough.ÔÇØ

For her team-mate, Viljoen, ÔÇ£the Absa Cape Epic is an endurance event, but the success often lies in not how many kilometres you have in your legs but in the will and the passion to make the partnership work. Most importantly, every day must be tackled as a new adventure and having fun must be a priority.ÔÇØ

Due to her commitment to ride in aid of the JAG Foundation, Labuschagne says that she is particularly motivated. ÔÇ£The JAG Foundation is a charity organisation that encourages underprivileged children to take part in sporting events and for every stage of the Absa Cape Epic that we complete, Absa will donate money to the JAG Foundation. Isn’t that just great? These kids are our future and there so many talented young sportsmen and women that just need to be given the opportunity to participate.ÔÇØ

Between her work as a Gripen pilot and cycling, Labuschagne says that doesn’t have much time for anything else. ÔÇ£What is free time?ÔÇØ she chuckles.

Apart from ensuring that she finishes the Absa Cape Epic this year, she also has some flying related goals and is also planning on running the Comrades!
Labuschagne was born (1979) and raised in Pretoria, where she matriculated from Willowridge High School in 1997. During her final year, she applied to the South African Air Force and after a series of psychometric tests, a strict medical and numerous interviews she was accepted as a pupil pilot.

ÔÇ£I have a very satisfying career and am currently busy with my Gripen Conversion. To date, I have approximately 1900 flying hours of which over 1000 are on military jets,ÔÇØ she says. Labuschagne, who holds the rank of Major, also has a diploma in Exercise Science and is currently studying a BSc through Unisa.

With her keen interest in ultra distance sporting events, Labuschagne has run the Comrades marathon before, completed three Full Ironman triathlons and numerous multi-day, multi-stage cycling events. In 2008, she cycled in the Club 100 ladies racing team. On two occasions, she finished first in the SAAF fittest soldier competition. In 2007 and 2008 she received the award for AFB Makhado Sport Woman of the Year.