Cape Town - Riaan
Manser is about as adventurous as you get: his bearded features first became
familiar to South Africans as they watched from afar while he rode a bicycle
around Africa and then circumnavigated Madagascar by kayak.
was off to Iceland for another testing circumnavigation by kayak.
took to a tiny boat with then fiancé Vasti Geldenhuys and they rowed across the
massive Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to New York. And after they got married
earlier this year they crossed the treacherous section of the Pacific Ocean
from California to Hawaii by rowboat.
Most of us
would need a long period of rest after just reading about those expeditions.
But the Manser/Geldenhuys axis is not like most of us: they are already
training to take on the rugged Absa Cape Epic together for the third time in
March next year. Rian will be bidding for his Amabubesi - “pride of lions” - status for finishing all three, but Vasti had to pull out during the event
this year after falling and breaking a bone in her hip.
So what is
it about the Epic that keeps him coming back?
“Firstly it means I can have a
super challenging week but still be ‘home’. And, probably most significantly, I
am not away for two years trying to do something like circumnavigating the
African continent,” Riaan says.
of this year’s setback, Vasti will be on the starting line alongside Riaan:
“The Epic draws you back into its clutches every year. When you have
tasted how it feels when you cross that finish line ... there are not many things
that can make you feel such accomplishment,” she says.
“When Riaan and I
crossed that finish line in 2015 I wanted to go back, and even though I broke
my hip in 2016 I still want to go back. You just can’t help it.”
points to the sense of camaraderie out on the course: “The mountain bike
community is a relaxed, determined and competitive one, which we enjoy
socialising with. We have had some incredible days in awesome, wild African
countryside with incredible company,” he says, adding a light-hearted request
to his fellow riders: “Please don’t ask me to begin telling a story when we
start hammering it up Groenlandberg!” - a reference to the event’s most notorious
climb, which will be encountered on Stage 6 next year.
looking forward to becoming an Amabubesi rider? “Very much so. Apart from the
pride of completing three Epics, the memories we have made over these years
have been awesome.”
honeymoon by rowboat from California to Hawaii was not exactly, er, smooth
sailing. Will the Epic then be a sort of second honeymoon?
“So we hope it’s
going to be a happier outing than the Pacific Ocean crossing was,” Riaan
“Flip, when we think back, it was scary and stressful with very few
‘happy’ faces to be seen. Epic will hopefully be kinder to us as a newlywed
believes though that their experiences at sea have been good preparation for a
team race like the Cape Epic: “Obviously spending days, weeks, months together
in a small space does prepare you for any team race. We hopefully ironed out
all our grievances with each other,” she laughs.
“Training together also
improves communication come race time. And we do communicate a lot during
the race … ask some of the other riders.”
their objectives for the race?
“I cycle because it keeps me in shape,” responds
“Riaan and I train each year for the Epic, but do not do many MTB races
in the rest of the calendar year (our rowing keeps us busy). For me, I
would like to finish the race with Riaan. Even if it is as team 600 I’ll be
however, started their training earlier for next year’s race and may just do a
bit better than that: “We have started training three months earlier than we
did on our previous two Cape Epics. With a few extra months preparation we
should be a lot better condition come start day. Vasti and I agreed beforehand
that our primary goal is to get our medals, but obviously we would like to
spend less time out in the field this time round.”
agrees: “The training is going much better than last year. The one thing
I’m training for is just to ease the suffering a bit. If I feel pain now during
our training, I hope to get used to that feeling, so when I feel it during the
race it is normal.”
* The Absa
Cape Epic takes place from March 19-26 next year. It consists of a prologue
and seven stages and is raced by two-person teams. The 2017 route will take
riders through 691km of Western Cape countryside and up a lot of hills: the
accumulated vertical gain over the eight days will be 15 400m.