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About the Last Lions

The rugged Absa Cape Epic has been staged 13 times … and just four people have managed to finish each event.

The fabulous four are: Craig Beech, John Gale, Mike Nixon and Hannele Steyn.

“We have decided to recognise these athletes in a special way so have introduced the Last Lions concept,” said Absa Cape Epic CEO Lynn Naude. “Each year as one or the other of the Last Lions decides not to race or drops out the numbers will obviously drop until we have only one rider who has finished every event. He or she will be the Last Lion,” said Naude.

Each of the Last Lions received a gold-plated top cap (or headset cap – the disc that screws in at the point where the handlebar stem joins the front fork’s steerer tube) at the 2016 Route Launch Gala Dinner in October last year. 

The Last Lion left in the race will receive another unique gift to commemorate their achievement.

Naude said: “Congratulations to the four Last Lions. They have shown amazing committed and drive and are obviously very talented athletes. It is quite something to just get to the start of the Absa Cape Epic, but to finish every one is truly amazing.”

 

The four riders who have finished all 13 events to date have:

* traversed 10 242km of route in total since 2004;
* gained 205 587m in total vertical ascent (climbing) since 2004;
* completed 105 stages (including Prologues);
* visited 31 different towns on the race;
* completed the longest stage ever in 2008. That year’s Stage 5 was 146km and took riders from Swellendam to Bredasdorp;
* experienced both the Knysna to Cape Town routes and, from 2009, the modern version where some stages start and finish in the same town;
* taken part in the only time trial held in the middle of the race: the 32 km race against the clock in Worcester on the fifth day of the 2011 event; taken part in the race with the most climbing per kilometre: 2015’s  21.4m per km;
* taken part in the race with the most ascent: 2008’s 18529m;
* taken part in the longest race: 2008’s 966km.

 

John Gale

Profession: Chartered Accountant from Cape Town
What does it take to finish the Absa Cape Epic: A whole year of luck in training and being lucky enough with health, work and personal life to be at the start line. Eight consecutive days of luck on the bike.  Not picking up an injury, not dehydrating, not getting sunstroke, not breaking the bike. It needs a lot of luck. Each year the field is stronger, faster, better equipped and better prepared.”
Why do you keep on coming back for more: “I have the tiger by the tail, like Baloo; he has to come back to feel that the other end has teeth. The first stage is always the most difficult.  After eight days of training I am ready for the later stages.”

 

Mike Nixon

Profession: Commercial Property Developer in Cape Town 
What keeps you coming back to the Absa Cape Epic? “The Tour de France of mountain biking on your doorstep.  How can you resist.”
When do you think you will stop doing the Epic? “After so many years my wonderful wife has got used to the solitude from December to March.  So when she wants me back I will stop.”
And given that you have summited  Mount Everest, which Absa Cape Epic climbs do you remember over the years as being the toughest? “None is tougher than Groenlandberg (in Grabouw).”

 

Hannele Steyn

Profession: Geneticist/Microbiologist from Knysna
What keeps you coming back to the Absa Cape Epic: “I love the race and it became my favourite race experience from the very first one when I had no clue what to expect or what multi day racing as all about. As a professional racing for Adidas International that was also the sponsor of the Cape Epic, it was just one of the planned races on my calendar, but after I retired form professional racing in 2007, I had done four already and wanted to get to five at least. Each year after that I was fortunate enough to get a sponsor and then it became a challenge to get to number 10. If you have done 10, you must either stop or again carry on till the next big number.”
When do you think you will stop doing the Epic? While I love it and because this race is such a challenge, I will try and do it until something outside of my power stops me.” 

 

Craig Beech

Profession: Conservationist in Somerset West
What keeps you coming back to the Absa Cape Epic? It has now become a little bit of a habit. Due to work travel I don’t get the opportunity to do many races in the calendar year, so I try pin down one or two each year, in which to participate. I definitely favour the longer stage events, and the Absa Cape Epic is often described as the toughest in the world, and I appreciate the challenge. I also like to spend our end of year break on the bike, often cycling through the Karoo. The year’s travels are similar to how a bear would treat its summer, I find I am scurried around, all the while building up the ‘winter storage’, and then the time comes at the end of the year to pin things down, use the lard and burn the calories.”
When do you think you will stop doing the Epic? “When I am no longer capable.”