Erik Kleinhans interview

CRANK was fortunate enough to catch up with GT-Mr Price rider and team manager Erik Kleinhans who, along with team-mate Oliver Munnik, survived a testing 2010 ABSA Cape Epic, and in doing so won over many fans for their gutsy “never-say-die” approach to the race.

Read on to find out about this busy guy who juggles professional MTB racing with team management duties.

CRANK: Could you tell us a bit about how this year’s ABSA Cape Epic went for you?

Erik Kleinhans: Unfortunately my team mate, Oliver Munnik, got really sick and we battled through the event, testing and building our friendship!

Pulling out became a reality, but Oliver showed some incredible courage and we finished, and that with a 16th position on the last day after he recovered.

(Side Note: Oliver unfortunately suffered a bad accident during a national cross-country race shortly after the 2010 Cape Epic. The good news is that he is making a solid recovery – we look forward to seeing you back Ollie!)

Erik during 2010 Absa Cape Epic. Courtesy Sven Martin

CRANK: What did you do on the Monday after the Epic?

EK: Dominated loads of coffee at Basic Bistro in Stellenbosch and enjoyed the view!

CRANK: You competed in the Giro del Capo as you have for several years. How did this go and do you feel that a lot of road racing is beneficial for MTB in general?

EK: I did plenty of road racing in the past and still love to line up on the road. The Giro del Capo was the last bit of training for the Epic and always tough with only one days rest between it, the Sani2C and the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus MTB Challenge.

Joining the “roadies” is great speed work and I do think it adds something to your mountain bike riding.

CRANK: You won the Amarider 100 miler in adverse conditions last year. What were your impressions of this event and will you be back this year?

EK: Probably my most satisfactory victory ever in such hectic conditions! Everyone who finished the 2009 100-miler must be proud. Meurant and Arina Botha always organise a great event so I will definitely be back to race on 22 May 2010.

Erik on his way to winning 2009 100 miler - Courtesy Oakpics

CRANK: You and Oliver were one of the few elite teams staying in the tents at this year’s Cape Epic. Do you feel that this was detrimental to your performance or, on the flip side, was it nice to be part of the “vibe” of the event?

EK: We are quite used to roughing it a bit, so it’s not that bad for us to stay in the tents, and we do like to be part of the “vibe”. But we did get fantastic support and accommodation from Oliver’s folks the last four days and I think it assisted with our recovery. It definitely helped a lot to get Ollie back on his legs and race ready after his illness.

CRANK: What was your daily routine like during the Cape Epic?

EK: We wake up at 04:50 as most participants get up at 05:00 then we always beat the queue to the porter-loos! (Hope I did not just give away our most valuable strategy…)

Breakfast directly after followed by getting dressed and a 20min warm-up before the start – and then SUFFER!!!!!

After the stage our Omnico mechanics, Russel and Werner, take our bikes and do their magic, Janine and Liné mend our tender legs, while we eat everything that we can lay our hands on.

Relax as much as possible in the afternoon and get into bed between 8pm and 9pm.

Erik racing Attakwas - Courtesy Torquepics

CRANK: How do you combine your team management role with riding? Have you ever had to work full time while competing as an elite rider?

EK: I was the stock controller and marketing coordinator at Omnico for two and a half years till the end of last year – it’s not easy working full time and trying to race competitively, but it is possible.

Now I work from home assisting Carinus Lemmer putting together a Cycling Academy in Stellenbosch and also managing our team activities – it is time consuming but I do have more time and at least I can do all my training in daylight!

CRANK: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

EK: We get paid to race our bikes, so for the rest of the year we will do everything from small local races to the big national races to get maximum exposure for our sponsors, Mr Price and GT Bicycles. Awesome!

CRANK: Do you have any interaction with the other pro’s?

EK: Living in such close proximity during the Epic you do get to see the other pro’s regularly, but mostly just for a short chat as everyone is on their own mission to get food and recovery. It is great though to be around the world’s best riders for the week.

CRANK: Any overseas aspirations?

EK: Yes, I would love pinning it abroad with the best marathon racers in the world, but before I would consider that I still need to elevate myself to a slightly higher level in our local National Marathon Series. Let’s hold thumbs.

Erik at the Cape Pioneer - Courtesy Oakpics

XC racing - Courtesy Darren Goddard

Sani2C - Courtesy Line Griffiths