South African Cycling

From running the show - to riding it

2015-10-07 13:07
Kevin Vermaak (Supplied)

Cape Town - After 12 years of being the man behind the Absa Cape Epicfounder Kevin Vermaak is going to experience his race from a new perspective - on a bike.

Since its launch in 2004 Vermaak has grown the eight-day stage race from what was effectively a one-man operation into the world’s leading mountain bike stage race with a full-time staff of 25 that work exclusively on the race preparations all-year round and which grows to over 900 when crew and volunteers join for the event itself.

“Riding the Epic is going to be a dream fulfilled,” Vermaak said.

“Work commitments during the event itself have made it impossible for me to actually participate. Now we have an amazingly efficient team and the appointment of CEO Lynn Naudé has given me the space to train and take part in the event”.

Vermaak will be riding in 2016 with long-standing friend Jakes Jakobsen, an IT executive from Cape Town who has finished the Cape Epic six times, including the very first event in 2004.

“We met in the early days of the Epic and trained and raced Ironman Austria together,” said Jakobsen.

“We have also done some three-day stage races together and some Epic training rides over the years. Riding with the founder of the Epic is going to be a privilege and an amazing experience.”

Vermaak added: “We have a lot of fun riding and training together and he is a genius at fixing bikes ... that makes him just about the perfect partner.”

Before launching the Absa Cape Epic in 2004 Vermaak had been working in IT in London. The UCT electrical engineering graduate was a passionate mountain biker and took on expeditions in rugged and remote parts of the world, including two crossings of the Himalayas.

In November 2002 he was taking part in the La Ruta de los Conquistadores stage race in Costa Rica when he dreamed up the Absa Cape Epic. Early in 2003 he was back in South Africa after eight years in London and a year later the first edition of the Absa Cape Epic took place.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” recalled Vermaak.

“And riding it will be like putting the cherry on top ... I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow riders and experiencing the event with them.”

Vermaak and the other 1 199 riders who will start on March 13 next year will find out on Wednesday next week exactly what will be confronting them when the route is revealed at the annual Route Launch Gala Dinner.

Vermaak used to train for and take part in the trial ride - when the route is tested about six months before the race - in the early years of the Epic because “we needed to have at least one person riding it from start to finish”. Now though there is a team of route designers and mountain bikers on the Epic staff who handle the trial ride.

He confesses though to having been given some information about the route ahead of the Route Launch: “But the racing snakes needn’t worry, I’m certainly not going to be stealing anybody’s podium,” he laughed.

Naudé, who was appointed CEO earlier this year, said she was fortunate to be able to depend on an experienced and efficient team:

“We plan to make sure Kevin and all the riders have a special experience.”

* The 2016 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from March 13-20 and the much anticipated route will be announced at the official route launch gala dinner on October 14, 2015.  The 2016 race will host the 100th stage in the history of the event on Tuesday, March 15.

Read more on:    absa cape epic  |  cycling

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