Cape Town - Theresa Ralph and Jeannie Dreyer of Team RBS, the highest placed all-South African women’s team at the Absa Cape Epic, look like they’re on a leisurely weekend camping trip.
Dreyer is all smiles while she hangs up some laundry on a portable clothes horse, while Ralph leaps in and out of their campervan looking for sunblock.
Both appear to have stepped out of a tranquil stream after a rejuvenating swim - but in fact they’ve actually just come from the showers after another long day at the Cape Epic.
Their warm smiles and friendly demeanour belies the competitive nature of the two, who finished Stage 4 of the Cape Epic with a charge for the podium.
Throughout the 111km day that went up, down and around the mountains of Worcester, Dreyer and Ralph raced alongside the second-placed team of Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis). A gashed tyre near the end of the route cost them a well-deserved podium place on the day.
Dreyer’s husband, Dusi King and ultra-endurance hard man Martin, is also racing at the event, but he’s opted for the “softer” accommodation of B&Bs while his wife and Ralph stay in the race village.
The women’s race so far has been one of brutal dominance from Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans and Denmark’s Annike Langvad.
Second overall is Sweden’s Stenerhag and South Africa’s De Groot. In third place sits another Swiss, Esther Suss, with her partner from Belgium, Alice Pirard.
More Swiss, a Norwegian, riders from the Netherlands, and a Slovakian fill out the top six overall places until you get to the local duo of Dreyer and Ralph.
“We had no idea there were so many competitive foreign riders at the Cape Epic,” says Dreyer.
“The Prologue was actually a bit of shock for us when we saw how good these girls were.”
Dreyer and Ralph only received a team entry in January, so they are thrilled to be sitting seventh overall in the women’s category. However, both ladies do have endurance pedigree.
Dreyer is the current women’s record holder for the gruelling Freedom Challenge ride, while Ralph, a former South African swimmer, has finished second overall in the women’s category at the Cape Epic
They’ve never ridden at the event as a team before, but Dreyer believes that they have a secret weapon which helps them perform so well (apart from the fact that they are both incredible athletes). “You know, we’re not doing too badly for two moms,” says Dreyer.
“In fact, I think that’s what makes us such a good combination – being moms means we’re on the same wavelength!”
Both only manage to squeeze in training rides when they can – early in the morning, or whenever time becomes available. Martin Dreyer says that Jeannie wasn’t even able to ride that much leading up to the Cape Epic.
“Jeannie works so hard with our kids,” he says. “She’s such a good mom, and she hardly ever has time to ride.”
Ralph says that the Cape Epic is as tough as advertised, but she also admits that both ladies are enjoying something of a holiday while they’re here. “We’ve come into the race treating as a holiday. It’s not every day a mom can come home, have a shower and read a book!”
Dreyer concurs. “It’s great. We ride during the day and relax in the afternoon. Normally I’m chasing kids around at this time of day, so being able to lie down and have a sleep is fantastic.”
At this stage of the race, Dreyer and Ralph seem to be getting stronger as the days wear on. They looked in good spirits after a tough Stage 4, Ralph saying “we left nothing out there today”.
On Stage 5 they’ll ride 117km from Worcester to Wellington, climbing 2500m as they search for an elusive event podium finish.