Cape Town - The Absa Cape Epic has a long history
of interesting celebrity pairings teaming up to undertake the Untamed African
Mountain Bike Race to raise funds and awareness for charity.
The 2018 the race
is no different and now boasts one of the most competitive charity pairings
yet, in the form of Douglas Ryder and Jan Scannell, riding for Dimension Data,
technology partner to the Absa Cape Epic.
Ryder is the team principal of Team
Dimension Data for Qhubeka, Africa’s only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)
WorldTour team, while Scannell is better known as Jan Braai and needs no
introduction to South Africans given our predilection for that form cooking and
The pair will be riding the Absa
Cape Epic to raise funds for Qhubeka’s Bicycles Change Lives programme. As the
team principal of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Ryder is aware of the
transformative impact of bicycles and cycling. The team has given South African
riders like Louis Meintjies, Jaco Venter and now Nicholas Dlamini the opportunity
to prove themselves on cycling’s global stage.
They have distributed over
80 000 bicycles, since 2005, to help people - from impoverished areas of
South Africa - to get to school, work and clinics. Bicycles, especially when
given to young girls, reduce school dropout rates by cutting the travel time to
and from schools by up to 75%.
With Dimension Data as title sponsor
of Ryder’s team and the Official Technology Partner to the Absa Cape Epic the
link between Ryder and the race has clear commercial ties. But Ryder’s focus
has always been on showcasing and developing cycling in Africa - a goal which
is echoed by Absa Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak.
“I’ve been talking about riding the
Cape Epic for a while now,” said Ryder, “and I think it is about time that I
actually did it. It’s an iconic race, and Kevin (Vermaak, the race founder) has
always shown myself and the team incredible support. He has put on a
world-class event in South Africa, which has shown just what incredible things
this country is capable of.”
Ryder’s partner, Jan Braai is best
known for his television show, best-selling cook books and as the man behind
Braai Day - the re-appropriation of Heritage Day into a national festival of
South Africa’s favourite pastime, gathering around a fire to prepare a meal. To
non-South African readers, the braai/Chisa Nyama/Ukosa is far more than just a
method of food preparation, it is a cultural phenomenon and the scene for
passionate talks about the other uniting bedrock of South African society, sport.
What might come as a surprise to
many though is how competitive Ryder and Jan Braai are likely to be at the 2018
Absa Cape Epic. Ryder represented South Africa on the road for over a decade,
gaining national cycling colours for the first time in 1993 in a career which
took in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, a victory in the 2001 Cape Town Cycle
Tour and three trips to the World Championships as a member of the South
African road cycling team. Jan Braai meanwhile has taken part in the South African
Duathlon Championships and has a converted sub-three Cycle Tour to his name.
But perhaps most importantly this year he has clocked up a few thousand
kilometres on his bike while on his Tour de Braai gravel grinding tours.
“Doug and I intend tackling the
event casually, enjoying the scenery, chatting to fellow riders, stopping
wherever spectators are having a braai and perhaps tasting some wine at some of
the many wine farms we will pass on the beautiful 2018 route. In preparation
for the event we are both following the high protein diet of mainly braaied
meat. Fitness wise it's going well and although we're not quite in any shape to
podium, we take comfort in the knowledge that round is also a shape, and half
of all the riding is statistically downhill” Jan Braai quipped with a
*The 2018 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race
takes place from March 18-25 and the much anticipated route can be viewed here.
Douglas Ryder (Supplied)