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Olympic gold medallists to tackle Cape Epic

Olympic rowing champions Mathew Brittain and James Thompson will participate in their first Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race, which takes place from 17-24 March in the Western Cape.

Matthew Brittain (25) and James Thompson (26) won gold medals in the men’s lightweight cox less fours at last year’s Olympics. Says Brittain: ÔÇ£I’ve always been a passionate cyclist and have spent most weekends on my bike. Naturally the Absa Cape Epic is the cycling event that excited me the most because it is such a world-class event right here in South Africa and is a true challenge.

“During my time as a rower I have spent many trips to the dam debating whether a rower could do the Epic, without doing very much cycling specific training. After the Olympics my teammate and I asked the Epic if they would be interested in allowing us to race. They said, ‘Yes’ÔÇØ and now I am nervous.ÔÇØ Thompson adds: ÔÇ£Thanks to PWC and the JAG foundation, Mathew and myself have been given the opportunity to fulfill a long time dream of riding the Absa Cape Epic.ÔÇØ

According to Brittain, the word that best describes the Absa Cape Epic is ‘dramatic’.

ÔÇ£James and I have trained together most days since 2006, but riding together only sporadically. We train three times on day one, twice on day two, three times on day three, twice day four, and so on. We get every fifth Sunday off. We row every day at least once, supplemented with gym, indoor rowing, running and obviously cycling. Diet wise I’m pretty relaxed. I believe the body craves the food that has the nutrients it needs, so I eat what I crave.

“I just eat less or more to maintain my weight.ÔÇØ The words that describe the event for Thompson is ‘world-class’. He adds: ÔÇ£Cycling has always been a big part of our rowing training and we try add as much as we can to the rowing training. In the build up for the Epic, we have squeezed every extra km of riding we can. This, however, is still a lot less riding than most competitors.ÔÇØ

With regards to the route, Brittain says he is seriously intimidated by stage two (145km). ÔÇ£I hope it doesn’t take too much out of me. I fear the rain, nothing makes mountain biking tougher.ÔÇØ Thompson reckons you have to be as tough as nails to complete the event. ÔÇ£I haven’t finished one yet, but I guess that’s what you’ll have to be. I think any sporting goal that you are not sure you can achieve is worth doing. Being mountain bike mad means that the Epic is the must-do event on the calendar. I got seriously nervous when I looked at this year’s route! I heard day two is going to be a cracker.ÔÇØ

Thompson adds that they are riding for the JAG foundation. ÔÇ£We’re looking to raise funds through their give and gain website, that can be used to educate and develop children in need using the platform of sport. Sport has taught me so much and so I understand the value they can add to these kids’ lives.ÔÇØ

In his free time, Brittain likes to braai with his girlfriend and friends, and watch movies. ÔÇ£I like rock climbing as well, but am not very good.ÔÇØ Brittain would like to finish the Absa Cape Epic this year. He says: ÔÇ£I hope that my teammates and I can push on from our Olympic success and have another great international season of rowing!”

He describes himself as a down to earth person, who is not afraid of a challenge. ÔÇ£I don’t like to let my teammates down and I approach things aggressively, ruthlessly and methodically,ÔÇØ he says. ÔÇ£I do rowing for a living, but its not a very good living so I do some part time work for one of our sponsors, Etana Insurance.ÔÇØ

For Thompson, there is not much free time. ÔÇ£Rowing training is basically full time. The free time I have I spend recovering, reading or watching movies.┬áBesides completing the Epic, I’d like to play my part in developing a light four that is capable of medaling at the 2013 World Rowing Championship.ÔÇØ Thompson describes himself as passionate, with a relentless drive to improve. Besides rowing, he is also a motivational speaker.


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