DRIEPOOT TOYOTA FIRST AMPUTEES TEAM TO COMPETE IN ABSA CAPE EPIC
Reuben Van Niekerk (28) will be teaming up with Dane Wilson (30) for this year’s Absa Cape Epic as team Driepoot Toyota. The legendary mountain bike stage race, which takes place from 17 to 24 March 2013, will take 1 200 riders over 698km with 15 650m of climbing through from Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville to Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.
Van Niekerk, a motoring journalist by profession, says that he took part in the Absa Cape Epic Volunteer Programme in 2012 in order to be able to participate in this year’s event. He received sponsorship from Toyota, which made it all possible for him.
Van Niekerk and his partner train together for 2 to 3 days a week. “We both work full time which allows only time to train on weekends. We both race on the track as well and will sometimes fit in a track session during the week if work allows,” says Van Niekerk. He has a structured training programme set by his coach John Wakefield, from Science to Sport in Cape Town, comprising of various sessions on the road and mountain bike as well as indoor training, which results in 12 to 15 hours per week. In terms of his diet he tends to be quite a healthy eater.
Van Niekerk believes that the most important ingredient to complete the Absa Cape Epic successfully is to get everything right. “Of course training is very important, but you also need to be mentally prepared and need to ensure that your equipment is 100%, so that you can just focus on riding when you’re at the event. Your teammate is also significant. Luckily Dane and I are riding quite similarly at the moment and this is very important, because if one rider is stronger that the other he will tire himself out helping the weaker rider and the weaker rider will be going flat out trying to keep up. This is not ideal for multi day events.”
When asked what he thinks of the 2013 route, Van Niekerk responds: “I don’t really know what to expect in terms of terrain as I have not raced much in the Cape, but one thing’s for sure – it’s going to be tough. The Epic has a reputation for being tough, but I’m ready for the suffering.”
Van Niekerk feels that his greatest challenge will be portage and walking sections. “I think for myself being a below knee amputee, that would be the biggest challenge. In terms of cycling, I’ve been doing this for 4 years, so have it pretty sorted. We both have our prosthetics manufactured by John Snyders from Icexpress – he’s the best in the business and has insured that we have everything we need to be confortable on the bike.”
In 2013, Van Niekerk is hoping to achieve a podium finish at the South African Road Championship and maybe win his category at the South African Mountain Bike Championship. This is the first year that the SA Mountain bike Championship will have specific disability classes.
Van Niekerk concludes: “I think the Cape Epic is ‘The Race’ to do at the moment. I’ve wanted to do it for a while and this year the timing is perfect. I said to Dane let’s give it a bash. Our aim is to be the first team of amputees to complete the race and I think we have a good chance of doing it. I mentioned the timing being right – I said this because Dane narrowly missed going to London 2012, so we’ll both be working hard to give ourselves a better chance in 2016. I think the Cape Epic will give us a good base in terms of training. If we can keep the momentum going into the South African Championships later this year and other events, that will help us qualify for international competition.”