Three competitors in the 2014 Absa Cape Epic might not be as intimidated as their colleagues by tough climbs such as the notorious Groenlandberg near Elgin – they have each already summited Mount Everest.
Alex Harris, Mike Nixon and Tony van Marken are clearly not afraid of big challenges – be it climbing the world’s highest mountain or cycling one of its toughest endurance events.
Nixon, 55, has done all 10 of the Cape Epics to date and was on track for a 11th finish after Saturday’s 88km sixth stage, a loop which started and ended at Oak Valley, Elgin. He is now riding alone after his partner – a late substitute – dropped out on the second stage.
Nixon summited Mount Everest on May 27, 2007. “I attempted the first time in 2004, but I got sick and had to turn around metres from the summit,” he recalled. Climbing Everest and the Cape Epic are very similar in the way that both take you out your comfort zone. The type of experience you get when climbing the mountain is a very similar to the experience you get on the Cape Epic. After a period of the time, living in these conditions peels back the skin. This is a wonderful equaliser.”
Harris, 42, who summited on June 3, 2005, is doing his second Epic and said climbing Everest had helped prepare him for the mountain biking challenge. “Ja, everything you do helps you prepare for the next challenge. The experience forces to you to dig deep within yourself. No matter your expectation of the race, you will be taught new skills, like to hang in there. Of course, my experience of climbing Everest was going to help.”
Harris Saturday completed stage six and was one day away from finishing his second Epic. He said he would do the Epic again but was unlikely to tackle Everest another time: “There are a lot of other things I would like to do.”
Van Marken, 49, summited a day ahead of Harris and finished the 2011 Cape Epic. “Everest is different: you live for two months on the mountain. In terms of time, Everest is a massive commitment and the last push to summit is 17-hour push. This is a really hard day and there is no comparison to the Epic.
“But there is no recovery day on the Epic, unlike Everest. That is the biggest difference. You can create a strategy up a mountain, but the Epic is very intense,” said van Marken.
He had to pull out of this year’s stage two of the Epic after suffering a series of mechanicals – two broken derailleurs and an irreparably damaged back wheel – in the muddy and wet conditions. However, he has continued as an unofficial competitor to support his partner and will be among those crossing the finishing line Saturday. He vowed to be back next year. “Definitely, it’s an incredible event and I love it.”
Nixon said he was unlikely to attempt another summit of Everest: “I prefer more remote mountains. Everest is rather commercial. We like to get away from the beaten track.”
Would he do the Cape Epic again?: “Absolutely. I live in the Cape. The Cape Epic is on my doorstep. While the body still holds out, and my wife supports me – she prefers me keeping fit rather than sitting on the couch – I’m going to do this race as often as I can. Before something breaks.”
Source: Purple Pine PR