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Team Pragma D4D aims to finish in top 100

Malan Wykerd (of Somerset West, 41) and Willem Coetzee (of Somerset West, 39) will be teaming up for this year’s Absa Cape Epic as team Pragma D4D. The legendary mountain bike race stage race, now in its tenth year, takes place from 17 to 24 March, and will take riders through 698km of challenging mountain biking terrain with 15 650m of climbing from Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville and finish seven days later at the traditional Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.

Wykerd, part owner of the Velo Life group of cycle shops, participated in his first Absa Cape Epic in 2011. “This will be my second Cape Epic. I see it as a personal challenge and we also use this event as a platform to raise funds for charity. We have a close relationship with D4D (Distance for Difference) and will once again be donating all funds generated to this group.”Coetzee, CEO of Kromco, a fruit packing and export company in Grabouw, adds. “I participated in 2011 for the first time, and of course, that was the toughest one ever presented, at least until March 2012. My partner and I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s race. We made use of the opportunity to raise money for D4D (Distance for Difference – www.d4dsa.co.za) and also raised R45 000 in 2011. When Pragma gave us the opportunity, as our main sponsor, to take part again in 2013, weimmediately said yes. Thank you, Pragma!”

Riding in the men’s category, Wykerd reckons they make a good team. “From the word go we just seemed to click. The strongest rider on the day will always support the weaker one and we constantly encourage each other. We’re also spiritually on the same level, which eliminates unnecessary arguments. We were friends before we started riding together and I personally believe that this makes this event more fun than when doing it with someone you don’t have a personal relation with. We’ll be doing our best to finish within the top 100 teams.” Adds Coetzee: “We have a good relationship and know each other well. We also dovetail quite well. Malan is a natural and experienced rider and one of the best bike mechanics I know. I have a lot of perseverance and normally play the motivating role.”

They train together between 4 to 5 times a week. Says Wykerd: “We train in a 4 week cycle with our 4th week being a recovery week. We started our training in November with a lot of base training. Close to the event we will start focusing more on strength and speed training. I’m an Afrikaner and like my “vleis, rys en aartapples”. I don’t follow any special diet as I have a high metabolism. I cut out junk foods and eat more fruit and vegetables.” Says Coetzee: “Malan owns a bicycle shop and is quite busy. We try to train together for about 70 to 80% of the time. The last 3 months are used to do intensity training and this programme is being done by my wife, who is a biokineticist and ex-Springbok. I don’t really follow a special diet.”

With regards to the route, Wykerd comments: “As usual the Epic crew did not disappoint. I have a love-hate relationship with Tulbagh and can’t say I am particularly keen to cycle the rugged trails out in this part of the country. Heat and staying hydrated is always a main concern. I’m really hoping for moderate temperatures and less portage.” For Coetzee, who grew up in Citrusdal, this year’s route will be one of the toughest yet. “We’ll definitely not be cold and wet during those stages in Citrusdal!”

Wykerd’s advice is to ride hard, but above all have fun. “The right partner and back-up crew are very important in this race. No amount of training will help if these two items are not in place,” says Wykerd. Coetzee reckons you must “know your partner and of course, never give up!”

Wykerd most looks forward to “seeing the ocean as we come over the Helderberg mountains towards the finish and my home town. The first and last stages are my favourite. The second stage is usually the one that gets me. On the last day, the feeling of knowing that you have completed the toughest mountain bike stage race in the world, is wonderful, but it’s even greater to have your family waiting for you with open arms and a warm embrace. I definitely don’t look forward to the saddle sores, but the camaraderie of this race stays with you for years to come.” For Coetzee, he really enjoys the Absa Cape Epic experience and reaping the fruit of all the training. “I find the seventh stage the most difficult, but it’s a proud moment to cross the finish line. You’re on top of the world for a while. It’s really nice to have some supporters at the last day’s finish. My fondest memory is having my wife, Elsmarie, with us the whole time. She did our general back-up and massages after each day of racing.” To Coetzee, his family is very precious.

In his free time, Wykerd loves cycling and spending family time outdoors. “I’ll also be doing my 21st Argus this year and would like to do this finishing within the top 3 tandem positions.”

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