Hannele Steyn, a business owner, is preparing herself for the 10th edition of the legendary Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, taking place from 17 to 24 March this year.
Steyn (46), who has become a cycling icon in the prestigious Absa Cape Epic, has successfully completed every race since the inaugural race in 2004. She will be riding with good friend Kenny Scheepers, who lives in Knysna and is 2.1m tall, as team Chris Willemse/Passion4Wholeness this year. “I’ve done all 9 Cape Epics to date and 10 years are quite a long time out of someone’s life, but looking back, it was all worth it. Every hour spent training, every tear shed, every drop of sweat and every bit of pain just contributed to me becoming a better person and facing life’s challenges a little easier. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful places in our country in a way few people have seen it. It’s given me many fantastic friends and taught me a lot about facing various difficulties,” says Steyn.
Weighing in at 50kg, with a height of 1.67 meters, Steyn admits that her super power when she is on a mountain bike is her climbing. “Crossing the finish line on the last day is the best part of my Absa Cape Epic experience. The worst part is the nerves when you race for podium, the selfishness that you have to have when you prepare for racing and not just finishing it. Others include any mechanical problems, falls or illnesses. In 2011, I became ill during the Absa Cape Epic, and this made it the toughest edition of the race so far.”
According to Steyn, the most important ingredient to a successful Absa Cape Epic finish is mileage. “The first stage is always the most difficult for me. The Cape Epic is a life experience. There are no words to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line, and only the ones who have crossed that line will understand the feeling, but it’s a feeling of pride. Don’t under-estimate the Epic – train hard!”
Steyn started mountain biking in 1997. “Every year has its own highs and lows, but 2006 when I won, was an amazing highlight for me. Other memorable experiences include my second place in 2010 and every stage I’ve won. Also, riding it with Greg Minnaar was unforgettable. One of the funniest moments in the race itself was when Yvonne Kraft, from Germany, and my partner in 2009 told me to not touch my brakes on the downhills, because I’m slowing her down.”
Steyn’s training programme and diet consist of a lot of mileage and climbing, gym work and cross training. “I try to eat a balanced diet of proteins, carbs and good fats and try to stay away from man-made foods. I don’t eat wheat, sugar or trans fats and of course I eat a lot of my own muesli.”
Steyn returns every year “because this race is like a drug. My goal for this year is to finish my 10th Epic as the only women who would’ve done it.”
The biggest achievement of her life was winning the World Triathlon Championships in 1994, starting her own company and launching her own health muesli.
A business owner by profession, Steyn says: “I have my own business, Passion4Wholeness, where I help people with their lifestyle. I do training programmes for cyclists and triathletes, bike set-ups, mountain bike workshops, etc. I also manufacture health muesli that is available in many shops. Fortunately, I’m not married anymore and I don’t have any kids, so that gives one a lot of selfish time. My true friends know that I have a lot of quality time, but very little quantity time.”