Epic challenge for Kirsten

Gary Kirsten, right, and training partner Riaan Launspach, share training and fitness tips as they prepare for the Absa Cape Epic.

Enjoyment at the Absa Cape Epic comes through preparation and taking no shortcuts for Gary Kirsten, the former South African cricketer, who will take part in Africa’s Untamed African MTB Race for the third time in 2018.

Kirsten, who will be one of the sports stars and celebrities riding for Team Land Rover, has been doing most of his training on Table Mountain, where the Cape Epic will start with a prologue on Sunday March 18.

The 20km of the opening day of the race will see participants climb 600 metres in just 20km, taking in the lung-busting climb to Dead Man’s Tree.

“I certainly know every riding trail that exists on Table Mountain, but I’m not sure that will help on race day,” said Kirsten.

“There are some fairly steep sections but I can’t think of a better place to start the Absa Cape Epic in 2018. It’s an iconic African landmark.”

The Absa Cape Epic last visited Table Mountain in 2015, and this, the 15th edition of the race, will take the riders along 658km of some of the Western Cape’s most beautiful and challenging terrain, with 13 530m of climbing, including four consecutive days of over 100km.

Kirsten is a relative newcomer to the sport, having only begun mountain biking three years ago.

“There are no short cuts to getting oneself prepared enough to enjoy the event, which is my goal. My training will not change much,

“I love getting onto the mountain as regularly as possible. I try to do between eight to 10 hours of riding a week, with at least two weekend multi-stage races included in my training for the Absa Cape Epic.

“It’s about getting time in the saddle and doing as much climbing as I can find. I have not done any gym training, but try and go for a run every now and then. I do think running helps when you have limited time,” he said.

Kirsten, who guided India to victory in the 2011 World Cup, was regarded as patient, calm and wise, imparting advice when it was most needed.

His advice to first-time riders of the Epic was the same that he received before he made his debut.

“My best advice, based on my experience, would be to ride as regularly as you can, even if it is not long distance. Train the hills wherever you can find them.

“Try to find the balance between a normal existence and training, you don’t have to be obsessive about it,” said Kirsten. “I really want to enjoy it and become part of the Amabubesi club.”

Kirsten and his Cape Epic partner and friend, Roddy van Breda, will take part in stage races in the Western Cape as part of their build-up, a vital part of establishing a riding partnership to see them through the eight days.

John Smit, the former Springbok captain, who is also part of Team Land Rover, believed that balance was the key to successful training for the Cape Epic.

This will be Smit’s fifth Epic, a journey he began in 2014 with the race becoming an integral part of life.

“As a professional sportsman, you have the daily routine and the buzz of training and playing matches, and a lot of us miss that when we retire,” said Smit.

“As a rugby player, you have strength in your legs and body, and stamina to see you through a match, but this is different training, a new challenge.

“That’s what sport should be – a new challenge all the time, and the Epic gives us that.”