He is an iconic rugby player. She is one of the most successful women’s road cyclists South Africa has produced. And on March 15, 2015, World Cup hero Joel Stransky and eight times national champion Anriette Schoeman will line up together to take on the mighty Absa Cape Epic in the Mixed category.
The former Springbok, who cemented his place in the history books with his famous World Cup winning drop-kick in 1995, will be taking part in his sixth Cape Epic. Since hanging up his rugby boots he has become an accomplished and competitive mountain biker. Schoeman, who represented South Africa at the 2004 Olympic Games and has won the Cape Town Cycle Tour five times, is relatively new to mountain biking and it will be her first Cape Epic. They have been bought together by sponsors Liqui-Fruit.
Given their combined sporting pedigrees, will they be racing for a podium finish?
“We have not discussed it, but I think the goal will be to race wisely but hard, and see how we go. If we are lucky enough to do well it will be a bonus,” said Stransky. Schoeman was also circumspect: “I’ve never raced with Joel before but he’s a competitive and ‘never say die’ kind of person, so I will make sure I’m fit and strong enough to keep up with him when he is in beast mode. At least we have eight days of character-building to find each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she added.
Schoeman is looking forward to her first attempt at the world’s premier mountain bike stage race: “I am nervous and excited at the same time. I think the Absa Cape Epic is one of those events that has to be on anyone that is passionate about cycling’s bucket list. We are so privileged to have an event of this magnitude right on our doorstep. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time.”
Stransky shared his thoughts on why he keeps coming back for more punishment: “The Absa Cape Epic is completely addictive, probably because it is so tough and, I think, because the route changes every year. It is an opportunity to thoroughly test your body and mind – more so the mind, I think – against the harshest terrain. The fact that you endure proper suffering certainly ensures a greater feeling of satisfaction at the finish,” he said. Stransky also cited the fact that amateurs get the opportunity to tackle the same course as the elite riders and a “fear of missing out on the toughest race of all”.
Schoeman is addressing her relative inexperience as a mountain biker by putting in the extra hours of training: “At the moment I am doing a lot of base mileage, but mostly on the road. I have road nationals and Cape Town Cycle Tour before the Absa Cape Epic, but any long hours on my bike will benefit my fitness.” She would also be “swopping my thin tyres for fat ones within the next few weeks to do some proper off-road training. I’m really enjoying the mountain biking, especially the fact that I’ve only been doing it for fun. I can’t say I have a lot of confidence on my mountain bike as I don’t really spend the necessary time on it. I normally just train on my road bike and jump on my mountain bike the week before an event to see if everything still works! I must confess I’ve had quite a few ‘oh well, let’s see what happens’ moments on my mountain bike when it comes to technical sections,” said Schoeman.
And why did Stransky – like many other retired rugby players – turn to mountain biking? “I think all sports people thrive on competition and even more so on challenging themselves. I have always wanted to be the best I possibly can be at whatever I do. Mountain biking is about getting stronger and more skilful, about pushing yourself harder and suffering more. I love riding and want to be better, and I can ride for as long as my body allows me! It also ensures a properly healthy lifestyle,” he explained.
Both paid tribute to Liqui-Fruit’s sponsorship and involvement in mountain biking. Stransky said: “Liqui-Fruit, as an outstanding product, has been around for as long as I can remember and is an incredibly funky brand with great brand following and loyalty. It constantly evolves to meet modern demands and I would think that this move into mountain biking is a natural progression! I certainly look forward to representing the brand at the Absa Cape Epic with great pride.” “I am very excited and grateful that Liqui-Fruit came on board and for this amazing opportunity! I think it is fantastic that brands like Liqui-Fruit have the vision to invest in our amazing sport of cycling and promoting a healthy lifestyle at the same time,” said Schoeman.
Liqui-Fruit managing executive Gareth Haarhoff said it was proud to continue its association as the official fruit juice sponsor of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic. “It will be the third year Liqui-Fruit has been involved and we look forward to a very exciting few months in the run up to the Grand Finale. We wish all the participants all the best during the race.”