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Ace combo mix it up

Currently the most successful mixed mountain bike team in South Africa, Yolande de Villiers from Oudtshoorn and Johan Labuschagne from Pretoria, will once again compete in this year’s Absa Cape Epic as team Cycle Lab KTM and no doubt provide much excitement in the Mixed category.

Labuschagne, 39, who has completed several Absa Cape Epic and other multi stage races on a highly competitive level, holds the 30 plus mountain bike title for 2010. De Villiers, a year younger at 38, is ranked as one of the top two mountain bike women in South Africa (and has also completed many Absa Cape Epic races to date).

The Absa Cape Epic, which is in its eighth year, will take place from 27 March to 3 April 2011. It is the biggest of its kind in the world and offers both local and international mountain biking enthusiasts the opportunity to participate in an eight day mountain bike race of 707km up approximately 14 550mm of climbing, which again ends at its traditional Lourensford Wine Estate finish.

Says de Villiers: ÔÇ£The Absa Cape Epic is the ultimate in mountain bike racing. It always remains a highlight on my calendar and it’s just one of the stage races that you have to do! After my absence last year, due to the fact that I broke my scapula, it’s fantastic to be back to compete in my sixth Cape Epic. I’ve completed two before together with Johan and we decided end of last year that we were going to take part together again this year.ÔÇØ

Labuschagne, who participated in his first Absa Cape Epic in 2005 and this year will be back for the seventh time, agrees that the event is always part of their annual race plan. ÔÇ£The Cape Epic is the benchmark of mountain biking; I love tough multi-stage events,ÔÇØ he says.

Commenting on this year’s event, De Villiers says that the route is going to be difficult and challenging. ÔÇ£Every stage is long and the terrain is technical, so it’s going to be long days. And there are so many climbs!ÔÇØ Labuschagne however admits that he misses the initial Absa Cape Epic races, where riders had to travel from Knysna to Cape Town. ÔÇ£The race is still tough, but I miss seeing the various parts of the country and its communities from earlier years.ÔÇØ

Due to the fact that De Villiers lives in Oudtshoorn and Labuschagne in Centurion (Pretoria), the team is unable to train together. ÔÇ£We however try to participate in as many stage races together as possible. And one gets to know your partner pretty well within a short time period if you ride together. I’m very fortunate to have Johan as my partner ÔÇô he is very calm and in control; I’m often the opposite,ÔÇØ she says.

Her training involves exercising for her ‘base’ during December when she puts in long and relaxing kilometres, as time on the bike is important. Then in January the races start; she participates in as many as possible and she exercises with more intensity. ÔÇ£In terms of my diet, I try to eat as healthily as possible. You burn many kilojoules when you exercise. I therefore see to it that I eat enough fruit, veggies and get sufficient protein intake.ÔÇØ

Labuschagne’s training consists of a daily 100 kilometres (in total) commuting to work and back (as Manager New Business Development: Sasol Oil), which includes ÔÇ£dodging cars and taxisÔÇØ. He says that it is tough to balance two jobs and family in a single day (he is also part owner of Cycle Lab Centurion), so the commuting works best in order to save time. ÔÇ£The alternative is spending 3 hours a day in my car, so it’s a no brainer. My diet consists of everything that I can lay my hands on ÔÇô it’s one of the perks of being a cyclist.ÔÇØ

De Villiers says that in order to successfully complete the Absa Cape Epic you need to be fit enough. ÔÇ£You can’t compromise with regards to your training. But the most important ingredient is probably to be mentally fit to get you through every day!ÔÇØ Describing herself as a very competitive person who is driven to success by fear of failure, De Villiers adds that she is very reliable and committed in order to achieve her goals. She is also very loyal towards her sponsors KTM and Cycle Lab Centurion.

Fitness, mental toughness and the correct partner are the ingredients that Labuschagne believe one should have to walk away as an Absa Cape Epic finisher. ÔÇ£No one should underestimate the event. They should prepare well, ensure that they have the correct equipment and the right partner,ÔÇØ he says.

De Villiers, who was born and raised in Oudtshoorn where she lives to this day, works for the family owned Swans Nursery which her father established 30 years ago. With her responsibilities as a wife (married to her Henties for 18 years) and mom of three girls, there is not much free time for De Villiers as she explains: ÔÇ£I get up very early in order to train, whereafter I go to work. Evenings consist of making food and helping the kids with their homework. If there is some free time, our entire household usually goes to the sea. This includes our 3 spaniels who just love being in the water. Henties is just unbelievably supportive in terms of my passion for mountain biking ÔÇô he is the best team manager; he washes our bikes after a race, he’s our mechanic and he gives us massages.ÔÇØ

Other plans for De Villiers this year include wanting to win the SA Marathon title and being selected for the SA team that will participate in the Marathon World Championships in Italy. Labuschagne, who describes himself as driven and adventurous, says that apart from the Absa Cape Epic, there are other three big multi-stage races that they would like to win this year (in the Mixed category). He would also like to win the SA Mountain Bike title in his category again.


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