More stars for Epic | SASCOC - SASCOC

More stars for Epic

National champions Jukka Vastaranta (26) of Finland and Jelmer Pietersma (28) of Holland will participate in this year’s Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas as team Milka-Trek 2.

The event, celebrating its eighth year of success, takes place from 27 March to 3 April 2011.

Vastaranta, who started mountain biking when he was nine and participated in his first race when he was 11, says that he does not really know what to expect of his very first Absa Cape Epic, but states that he will give it his all while he participates in this new experience.

As an accomplishment mountain bike and road bike athlete, Vastaranta was the European Mountain Bike Junior Champion in 2001, the Finnish Elite Mountain Bike Champion in 2001, 2009 and 2010, and also came fourth at the European Mountain Bike Championship XCM. As a road biker, he was the junior winner of the World Cup in 2001, he came in second at the World Championships in 2002, he was a stage winner at the Ster Electro Tour in 2005, and came in second at the Tour of Luxemburg in 2005. During 2009, he also raced in the Finnish National Team.

Pietersma has twice been the under 23 Dutch Mountain Bike Champion and was the winner of the Tour De France VTT in 2009.

Although it will be Vastaranta’s first Absa Cape Epic, Pietersma will be back for his second Cape Epic adventure after participating last year. ÔÇ£The Absa Cape Epic is one of the biggest races in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2010 event. During the first stages I felt really strong ÔÇô we were riding for the podium and took a stage victory. However, I got sick after stage four and then it was a struggle for me to get to the finish. This year I have a very strong riding partner in Vastaranta, so I hope I’ll be able to get my revenge on last year by riding a good Cape Epic without any illness or problems, achieving a great result.ÔÇØ

Commenting on his riding partner, Vastaranta says that they make a good team as they are similar riders, although they differ in size. ÔÇ£We’re not really climbers, but we can if we have to. When we compete in the same events, we also usually achieve similar results, so I believe we’re of equal strength which is great.ÔÇØ

Pietersma however says that Vastaranta underestimates what a good climber he (Vastaranta) is. ÔÇ£He is strong in the climbs as well as being good with the downhills. I’m also not bad at climbs and downhills, but I’m also strong in the flat parts ÔÇô so we’re a good team.ÔÇØ

Although winning is their goal, Vastaranta is not overly confident. ÔÇ£The last month hasn’t been exactly perfect. In fact, I haven’t been able to ride any longer than three hours at a time. So we’ll just have to see what happens,ÔÇØ he says.

Pietersma agrees that winning the Absa Cape Epic is very hard, stating: ÔÇ£The world’s best riders will participate and it’s also important to have no problems with your health or equipment. So it’s very hard to say that you think you’ll be able to win. But we’re in good shape and if we don’t have much problems we can go for a podium finish for sure. The race is often won by the team that has the least problems.ÔÇØ

Apart from riding together for a couple of minutes at the various events they participate in, the team has not been able to train together due to their geographical challenges. ÔÇ£I don’t really have a training programme, but just try to go for long rides. However, the last couple of months have been bad in this regard. In terms of my diet, I eat oatmeal in the morning, pasta for lunch and salad, tuna and bread for dinner. I also try to eat one kilo of apples a day,ÔÇØ says Vastaranta. Pietersma believes that the fact that they are not able to train together is not necessarily negative.

ÔÇ£Everyone has their own trainers and training methods. And I think that’s a good thing when you compete at this level. A rider must do what he thinks is best for himself and what is good for me, is not always good for another rider. We all do the best we can to prepare, but we do it in different ways,ÔÇØ he says. Pietersma trains with a Dutch trainer, Aschwin van Oirschot, who gives him a training schedule. ÔÇ£I train about 20 hours a week. The only diet I follow is to eat healthily and I don’t eat much unhealthy things like candy or cookies.ÔÇØ

For other athletes Vastaranta’s advice is: ÔÇ£Be happy and enjoy riding your bike. Mountain biking is something that you just have to do for fun. If you take it too seriously, you just get frustrated like I normally do. I’m too serious, but I’m finally learning to relax.ÔÇØ Pietersma says that proper training before the Absa Cape Epic is key. ÔÇ£You can’t start training a month before. The earlier you start, the easier the Cape Epic will be and the more fun you’ll have. And if you don’t have fun anymore then you better quit.ÔÇØ

In his free time, Vastaranta enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, no matter what they do together. His other goals for the year include winning some medals from various championships he will participate in. Pietersma enjoys downhill mountain biking, watching movies, drinking coffee and having fun in his free time. His goals for 2011 include becoming the Dutch National Cross Country and Cross Country Marathon Champion, achieving a top 15 placement in the Cross Country World Cup, being in the top 15 at the World Championships, and making it into the top 10 at the European Championship.