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Sure Travel takes on the gruelling Cape Epic MTB race

Serious mountain bikers from around the globe will travel to the Western Cape on 18 March to take on one of the world’s most gruelling races: the Absa Cape Epic.

This elite mountain bike (MTB) stage race is the most televised in the world and sees 650 two-person teams take on an eight-day, 700-kilometre route that includes 16 000 metres of punishing uphill terrain.

Sure Travel’s IT Solutions Manager, Jan Lombaard, is one of them.

Sure Travel's IT manager, Jan Lombaard, gears up to take on the Absa Cape Epic in March 2019. Photo supplied.

“A friend of mine, Jacqui Jackson – who is no stranger to the podium, asked if I’d be willing to ‘ride for her’ and I jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says, adding that although he knew it was a tough race, he didn’t quite know what he was in for until he started training. 

While Lombaard is used to preparing for tough MTB races such as the Attakwas Extreme (a 121-kilometre route from Oudtshoorn to Mossel Bay) and new trails on local wine farms in Stellenbosch, training for the Cape Epic is a whole ‘nother ball game – “It requires at least six months of copious sweat and extreme mental and emotional endurance.”

And that’s not including the intensely strict diet he has to follow: “Nutrition is super important. I have to pack specific meals for each day, including snacks, food, recovery meals, endurance powders and water. It can be a gigantic pain, but I keep at it when I remember the openness of the trails, the friendliness of fellow riders and the general camaraderie.”

The opportunity to travel for races was not initially why the 41-year-old got seriously into mountain biking in 2016 – “the MTB bug just bit me hard” – but it’s become an inseparable part of his love for the sport. 

From local travel to parts of South Africa not on tourist routes to the back roads of wine farms at home in Cape Town, seeing new scenery from the saddle has become just as addictive as the actual riding.

His MTB travel bucket list includes races in Switzerland, Canada and Madagascar. But for now he’s got his sights locked on one finish line only, and he reckons it’s going to be epic.

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