18 Jun, 2015

Father's Day With An Epic Twist

Father and son team Johan and Pieter Bezuidenhout have now done two Absa Cape Epics together. Photograph by SPORTZPICS/EMMA HARROP/CAPE EPIC
On Sunday many South African men will celebrate Father’s Day by giving their dad a pair of socks or some biltong.

In some homes, though, that celebration may just include a ride together … and a bit of reminiscing about the achievement of being one of the father-and-son teams to have completed the Absa Cape Epic.

One such pair is father Johan and son Pieter Bezuidenhout, who will be setting off in March 2016 on their third Absa Cape Epic together. Johan, who is 63-years-old, completed his landmark10th race in 2015 and will be aiming for his 11th finish.

Johan says his initial invitation to Pieter was motivated by a concern over the younger man’s lifestyle: “I invited him on my first Epic in 2006 as he was managing nightclubs and needed to get a grip on his lifestyle and health. The deal was that he had to be at my level by December 2005. He missed that cut-off but did start getting his lifestyle together.

“His next invitation from me was for the 2014 Absa Cape Epic, which he did. We had such fun that he received an invitation from me for 2015 and has recently received another from me for 2016, his Amabubesi (three finishes) year!”

Pieter admits: “After school I did what most youths do: studied, partied, and did many things that were not conducive to an active cycling career. My father and I lost touch.

“By the time I was 28 I had moved to Johannesburg and started running the family business. This meant I was spending more and more time with my father, so the pressure to ride came slowly back.

“I joined a cycling club and slowly my riding improved. My father entered me in numerous events that we rode as a team. In the beginning, he waited at the top of all the hills as I lugged my heavy, unfit body to the top,” said Pieter, who is now 31.

By 2014 Pieter was ready to take on the ultimate mountain biking challenge, the Absa Cape Epic: “After many rides and father-and-son bonding training weekends, we lined up at the foot of the Dorstberg for the start of the 2014 Epic. And we finished comfortably within the top 260 in the general classification. I loved it…”

Father Johan added: “I have a more than 30-year investment in him and he certainly did not disappoint me. We are now in business together as well, and the Epic hardships certainly make work challenges all seem manageable.”

And would he do it again? “I would continue indefinitely but 2016 may be the year that I hand over the baton as he will be too strong after that. Racing with him when I am 65 might be too much,” said Johan.

“Riding with my father is better than riding with a best friend,” said Pieter. “We ride well and complement each other: he is stronger on the climbs – like a well-tuned diesel engine – but I’m bigger and on the flats I’m the powerhouse. My father says it’s like drafting behind a bus.

“We don’t speak much on the bike, but have a sophisticated language developed over time consisting of ringing our bells on our handlebars. Two rings means slow down, one ring means ‘I’m here, lets hammer it!’,” Pieter said.

“No matter what event you do as a cyclist, everybody asks you if you have done an Epic, I can now proudly say I have done two and, with even more pride, I can say that I rode these with my father,” added Pieter. “Very few people get to do sport with their father, or sons, even fewer can say they have done the hardest mountain bike race together. I was proud to have raced and survived another Epic with my closest friend … my father.”

Also on the start line in 2015 were father and son team Johan and Jacques Fourie. And they were together at the Meerendal Wine Estate finish too, finishing 293rd overall.
“The Cape Epic created a bond between us that few things in life will be able to take away. My advice to other fathers out there – Just Do It! You will remember it for the rest of your life,” said 54-year-old Johan. “I am still telling people that I did the Cape Epic with my son, whether they are interested or not!”

Jacques, 21, added: “Riding with my father was not only a blessing, but him being my role model certainly made the ride worthwhile. Riding with him made us more than father and son, it made us the best of friends.”

Johan explains his motivation for taking on the world’s premier mountain bike stage race with his son: “I have always wanted to do something special with my kids, and this was the perfect event for me and my son to create great memories. Maybe one day I will also be able to do this with my daughter.”

So what was it like competing in such a long and gruelling event with your son?
“A privilege! Extremely proud! We completely understood each other by the time we arrived at the Cape Epic. During the training we learnt so much from each other that most of the time we just knew what the other person was going through without talking.”

And what does Jacques think of the Absa Cape Epic now that he has finished it: “Unbelievable, speechless. Something that every person with a love for mountain biking should put at the top of their bucket list. An experience like no other.”

Absa Cape Epic Marketing and Communications manager Sarah Harrop congratulated all the father-and-child teams who have completed the event together: “Happy Father’s Day to them and all the fathers who have taken part in or been involved in the event,” she said.