The most televised mountain bike stage race in the world, the Absa Cape Epic, will be in its tenth year in 2013. This legendary eight-day team stage race, which attracts the world’s most accomplished and seasoned riders, takes place from 17 to 24 March next year. With the Ladies’ division set to be as exciting as the Men’s, distinguished riders Hanlie Booyens and her partner Sharon Laws, will be aiming to give a 110% and celebrate the 10th Absa Cape Epic as well as the growth of the sport.
Thirty nine year old Hanlie Booyens, who lives and trains in Stellenbosch, will be participating with 38-year old Sharon Laws as team Pragma Ladies. Booyens finished first in the Ladies category in 2004 and 2009, with partner Laws. Further to this she has taken second place in 2005, fourth place in 2008 and third place in 2011, with her respective racing partners. “I don’t know what makes me come back for more. This is a question I’ve asked myself many, many times. Maybe the hype. Maybe the personal challenge or maybe it’s the friends I’ve made for life. It’s a strange thing – I both hate and love it!” says Booyens.
Booyens will ride for physical asset management company Pragma, for the first time in 2013. She adds tongue in cheek: “It’s not a case of who you are but who you know. I’ve been in discussions with Pragma on previous occasions, but this was the first year where it worked for all involved. They’re now such an integral part of the race that it made a lot of sense to approach them for assistance and we’re immensely grateful for their willingness to support us in 2013.”
After taking first place in the Ladies category in 2009, for the second time, Laws and Booyens made a pact to come back for the tenth edition of the race. “It will be a reunion, an anniversary of the start of a great friendship and a thank you for 10 years of solid bike racing! A podium spot will be a fantastic bonus but in all honesty we’re here to celebrate the 10th anniversary being the ladies winners of that very first Absa Cape Epic!
“We only train together when Sharon is in SA – she’ll be in Stellenbosch from the end of November. Hopefully we’ll train together at least once or twice a week. I work full time and she has a serious road race schedule, so it’s not always possible to ride together that often. But we know each other very well, so we’re not too concerned about that,” says Booyens. Laws, who currently resides in Europe, is looking forward to Booyens giving her some mountain bike coaching sessions in between her road race training programme in November.
In preparation for the 2013 Absa Cape Epic, Booyens admits she rides as much and as sensibly as her day job and body permit her to, and then some more. “I tend to overdo things, so for 2013 the plan is to focus on quality and not quantity – although I love those slow rides that take an entire day. With the Cape Epic, I think the danger is to peak too soon and be overcooked by mid-March. With regards to diet, generally the goal is a healthy, well balanced diet with not too many restrictions. My Achilles heel is Coke. I know it’s terrible, but I love it and anything from a bakery too.”
Laws’ training and diet is not that much different. “My job is a professional road racer, so I train on the bike 6 days a week between 1 to 5 hours a day in addition to core stability on alternate days and some swimming for recovery. The intensity and length of the rides depend on where I’m in my season and what races are coming up. In preparation for the Absa Cape Epic I expect to be doing some longer rides and getting used to riding on the dirt again. I like to eat good food, unprocessed and healthy. I also enjoy cooking and making my own energy bars and treats. One of the benefits of being a pro is having the time to concentrate on following a good diet. Good coffee and dark chocolate also feature high on my priority list, but it has to be good quality otherwise it’s not worth having!” says Laws.
Laws’ reckons there are several ingredients that are necessary for a successful finish. “Team work, a good partner, enjoying it, luck, fitness, realistic goal setting and expectations,” says Laws. To this Booyens adds: “Having fun with your partner. If you can be a positive, happy team you’re 80% there. Obviously you need the mileage, you need luck with mechanicals and staying healthy and injury free, but in the end you will hate it if you lose joy, whether you race or just ride.”
An architect by profession, Booyens enjoys sport and relaxation activities in her free time. “I love taking my dog, Danielle, for hikes in the mountains with friends. I also enjoy swimming in remote pools, watching the sunset over the ocean and spending time on the farm with my family. Anything outside I guess. I think the 2013 Cape Epic will be my last big stage race, as a wannabe racer anyway. Some other goals are more career driven. Most importantly I just want to appreciate the privilege of life as I know it and live in gratitude thereof. You know – make every second count.”
From 17 March to 24 March 2013, all eyes will be on the Western Cape as the world’s top riders compete for position in what is billed to be the most competitive event in the race’s history. Covering a distance of 698km with 15 650m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.