Cape Town - When
Jaco-Albert van Gass and Stuart Croxford were injured in separate incidents
during missions for the British army in Afghanistan, riding an event as tough
as the Absa Cape Epic seemed an impossible dream.
WATCH: Jaco-Albert van Gass and Stuart Croxford on tackling the Absa Cape Epic
on Monday the two Britons survived the tough 111km Stage 1 in just over 7 hours 30 minutes as
the first amputee team to compete in the world’s toughest mountain bike race.
Gass, a former South African, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade which
immediately severed his left arm while sustaining severe thigh, knee and ankle
injuries and a collapsed lung during an surprise Taliban attack just two weeks
before he was due to return home.
2012, Croxford’s vehicle was hit by a landmine and he sustained severe injuries
to his right leg. Within 24 hours of being injured he was back in the UK
getting treatment but after two years and multiple complications surgeons were
forced to amputate.
the loss of their limbs, both former soldiers have not let their disabilities
get in the way of their dreams. Van Gass has taken on challenges to the North
Pole and Everest while Croxford qualified as a ski instructor after his leg was
both underwent rehabilitation at the Headley Court Defence Centre they only met
afterwards before Jaco invited Croxford to take on the ominous challenge of the
Absa Cape Epic.
don’t want our disability to define us,” Van Gass says.
“Yes there are
limitations to what you can do but we really want to inspire and mentor others
that may have been injured or suffer from disabilities.”
my leg got amputated it lit a fire inside me to see what I could do,” Croxford
“And when Jaco asked me to join him last summer I said yes before I’d
even been on a mountain bike.”
the tough Stage 1 in Hermanus, Van Gass took a nasty tumble but was confident
the two would still conquer the eight days.
need to have confidence in what you do and then people forget you are missing a
limb,” Van Gass said.
team’s name - KT18 - is the first part of the postcode of the rehab centre they
both attended at Headley Court and a reminder of the work the staff at the
facility did to help the two build a new future.
What is Absa #ConquerAsOne?
will once again be recognising and rewarding teamwork and perseverance at the
2019 Absa Cape Epic with the #ConquerAsOne campaign. At each stage of the race,
an extraordinary #ConquerAsOne moment will be identified and recognised, where a
team showed immense human spirit to overcome their own personal challenges to
conquer that stage together.
this year’s race, a panel of judges will select one #ConquerAsOne moment on
each day of the race. The winning pair will be announced in the dining marquee
where they will receive a unique #ConquerAsOne jersey to wear proudly during
the next day’s stage. At the end of the week, the judges will then select the
overall #ConquerAsOne moment, with the winning team walking away with an Absa
Pride entry for the 2020 Absa Cape Epic.