By FOCUS REPORTER
Well-known cyclist, Jose Hermida (32) from Spain will participate in this year’s Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas as part of Multivan Merida Biking Team 3. The event, which takes place from 27 to March to 3 April 2011, will lead 1 200 cyclists through vast distances, kicking off with a prologue in Tokai Forest and ending at the historical finish line of the prestigious Lourensford Wine Estate.
Hermida boasts a number of titles including the Elite World Champion (2010), fourth place at the Sydney Olympic Games, six World Cup round victories, runner-up in the European Championships and five times Spanish National Champion.
According to Hermida, who will be giving amateur riders a witty summary of the day’s events in the dining marquees every evening, the decision to participate in this year’s Absa Cape Epic is not easy to explain in a few words: “Firstly, I really feel comfortable at this event – it feels like home. The organisation, the course, the other riders – or shall I say ‘enemies’. It’s a bit of all of this and also because I really like to ride it.”
Hermida will be riding with Ralph Näf, with whom he rode in 2007. Says Hermida: “Riding with Rudy van Houts was fantastic last year and we even won the last stage. This year I’ll be coming back with one of my best friends and also partner. It’ll be wonderful for us again to ride ‘full gas’ in this year’s Epic. The good thing about it is that we know each other really well. Most of the time we don’t need to talk much.”
To the question of how confident he is of a stage win, his answer is simply that he is always confident. “But, every year it’s getting more difficult to win a stage to win and a win overall is 8 times harder. The good thing is that we’re smart enough to wait for the right day, and then we always go for it – let’s see what happens this year.”
During season, the two train together all the time. “Hundred and fifty days of the year we travel around the world. After each season we really need to switch off and take a break from each other! But then just after a couple of weeks we need to call each other just to cathc up.”
Hermida trains 15 to 25 hours a week and between 20 000 and 25 000 km a year, with one day rest a week. “And of course lots of motivation and passion for my sport. On the diet side, I’m lucky. I like salads and pasta a lot and for dessert tiramisu and capuccino.”
His advice to other participants is simple: “Have fun and ride with passion! The Absa Cape Epic will be short like that! In this event success is not always to win. Most of the time it is to reach the goal with your partner, so let’s say that the most important factor is to have a good vibe with your partner and to always keep going.”
His comments on last year’s race are short: “Only one comment – the first stage, especially the railway track section. I think many people will remember that, so enough said. It brings back not-so-nice memories.”
Hermida reckons everyone has to start at the bottom. “Young athletes need to know that we all started on the 2nd or 3rd page of the results list. Just keep going. You can get there!” To cross the finish line of the Absa Cape Epic is one of the greatest feelings in the world. “You reached your goal and feel proud of yourself and your partner. Its great! And in my case I won the final stage with Rudy last year – it was as if I’d won the Lotto! All your memories of the Absa Cape Epic – good or bad one – are for life, which makes them all good, I think.”
Hermida is married with two kids, so does not have much free time. “I spend all the free time with my familly and resting at home. I also enjoy cross country skiing and karting (gokart) but the real truth its that my job is my hobby and my hobby my job and that’s really great.” His goals for this season will be to win the World Championships in Champery and the Overall World Cup. “It depends on me to do it or not.”
Live entertainment for the entire family, including wine tasting, magnificent scenery and the finest food and wine will be on offer at the finish at Lourensford Wine Estate. Entrance is free.
Meanwhile the first female Gripen pilot of the South African Air Force, 31-year-old Catherine Labuschagne, will participate in her first Absa Cape Epic this year with Ernst Viljoen as team Absalute Mud Movers. The event, which takes place from 27 to March to 3 April 2011, will lead 1 200 cyclists through 707km of wilderness with 14 550m of climbing to finish 8 days later at the Lourensford Wine Estate.
Labuschagne, whose code name is ‘Siren’, says it was after Ernst Viljoen approached her to ride with him on behalf of Absa for the JAG Foundation that she agreed to participate in this year’s event. “I gladly accepted, what an amazing opportunity,” she says.
In her opinion, Labuschagne feels that she and Viljoen make a great team as he has the patience and experience and she is really keen. Viljoen has completed the Absa Cape Epic twice before and has been Team Manager of Team Absa since 2007
Adds Viljoen: “Unfortunately we live far apart – Catherine is in Louis Trichardt, and I’m in Cape Town, so we don’t train together all that often. We did manage to ride together in December though and completed the Absa training camp earlier this month.”
Labuschagne’s training programme and diet were compiled by veteran athlete Erica Green. “However, due to work commitments I need to be quite flexible with my training. As far as my diet is concerned, I follow a healthy balanced diet and supplement with protein, glutamine and recovery shakes.”
Labuschagne believes that she has the most important ingredients to successfully complete her first Absa Cape Epic challenge. “It takes hard work, lots of training, commitment and a positive attitude. My advice for other participants would be to always maintain a good sense of humour, especially when things get tough.”
For her team mate, Ernst Viljoen, “the Absa Cape Epic is an endurance event, but the success often lies in not how many kilometres you have in your legs but in the will and the passion to make the partnership work. Most importantly, every day must be tackled as a new adventure and having fun must be a priority.”
Due to her commitment to ride in aid of the JAG Foundation, Labuschagne says that she is particularly motivated. “The JAG Foundation is a charity organisation that encourages underprivileged children to take part in sporting events and for every stage of the Absa Cape Epic that we complete, Absa will donate money to the JAG Foundation. Isn’t that just great? These kids are our future and there so many talented young sportsmen and women that just need to be given the opportunity to participate.”
Between her work as a Gripen pilot and cycling, Labuschagne says that doesn’t have much time for anything else. “What is free time?” she chuckles. Apart from ensuring that she finishes the Absa Cape Epic this year, she also has some flying related goals and is also planning on running the Comrades!
Labuschagne was born (1979) and raised in Pretoria, where she matriculated from Willowridge High School in 1997. During her final year, she applied to the South African Air Force and after a series of psychometric tests, a strict medical and numerous interviews she was accepted as a pupil pilot. “I have a very satisfying career and am currently busy with my Gripen Conversion. To date, I have approximately 1900 flying hours of which over 1000 are on military jets,” she says. Labuschagne, who holds the rank of Major, also has a diploma in Exercise Science and is currently studying a BSc through Unisa.
With her keen interest in ultra distance sporting events, Labuschagne has run the Comrades marathon before, completed 3 Full Ironman triathlons and numerous multi-day, multi-stage cycling events. In 2008, she cycled in the Club 100 ladies racing team. On two occasions, she finished first in the SAAF fittest soldier competition. In 2007 and 2008 she received the award for AFB Makhado Sport Woman of the Year.
In Viljoen’s free time, he enjoys mountain biking, camping with his wife, daughter, two sons and grandson, or taking his 4×4 to any destination possible. He describes himself as being focussed, disciplined, committed and passionate about whatever he does.
Mountain biking enthusiasts not participating in the Absa Cape Epic are invited to enter the Cape Times Vigne-a-Vigne mountain bike race. The race promises participants breathtaking scenery and spectacular mountain biking terrain, and cyclists will be given the opportunity to enter either the 50km or 27km challenges. Interested riders can register online at www.vigne-a-vigne.com.
The Cape Times Lourensford Vineyard Run is a unique trail running race offering a choice of a 6 or 15km route. The Vineyard Run (also on 3 April 2011) will provide participants with beautiful vistas and numerous climbs through the idyllic and picturesque Lourensford Wine Estate. Interested parties can enter online at .www.vineyard.com