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Friday, 31 January 2014

Van Niekerk returns for 10th Absa Cape Epic

Ben van Niekerk in action (Photo Credit:
Ben van Niekerk in action (Photo Credit:


Ben van Niekerk (44), one of only a few riders to have participated in each Absa Cape Epic since 2004, will return for his 10th event from 23 to 30 March this year.  As the CEO of an energy and electricity management company in Pretoria with business activities in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Van Niekerk has always been drawn to multi stage events. “Back in the day, the only real multi stage was the Trans-Alp, and when word got out that a similar event was being held on African soil, I couldn’t sign up fast enough,” he says.

He reckons the “sheer adventure and beauty of the surrounding areas we rode through every year, has driven me to complete 9 events. The fact that the route changes significantly year on year was also a big advantage”.

He says he balances training and his personal life very carefully. “I still don’t always get it right. I’m in the privileged position to have a very understanding family and business partners. I also manage my day to ensure that my training is fitted in before my day starts to ensure that I can concentrate on work and family in the afternoons and evenings.”

Van Niekerk would enjoy competing in future Absa Cape Epic events. “If I have the opportunity, I’d love to keep going back to the Cape Epic and hopefully even complete a few with my two sons and daughter – all avid cyclists but still youngsters. They are my biggest supporters – Christoff (12), Dirk (10) and Reine (9). Every year I pass the finish line after eight days, I experience a feeling one cannot describe or share with anyone that has not done this epic journey. If I have to single out one specific year, it was the year my six time finisher partner (Karl Schubert) and I finished 17th overall in 2006.”

Funny moments to share would have to include “the war stories at the end of every stage – especially if there was a particularly nasty surprise. When I started out, my training was all very serious and focused, as we wanted to finish with a certain position in mind. Nowadays – maybe it’s the age or knowledge setting in – I’m still training hard, but the focus is on enjoyment and fun more than trying to hit top 20 or 30.”

He reckons that all the stages start blending into one another after 10 years. “Last year’s short day in Wellington, the 75km, was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time on a bicycle. 2006’s second last day over Groenlandberg from Villiersdorp to – I think – Kleinmond or Hermanus, was one of my most memorable days on a mountain bike. The year the entire valley was shrouded in clouds and we popped out above the clouds in a crystal clear crisp mountain air, only to see the peaks of the mountains sticking through the clouds – it was surreal.”

Van Niekerk’s first bike was a full suspension Trek in 2003. “I’ve swapped over to Specialised and am riding an Epic 29er. At my age, it’s all about comfort and being able to recover after a day’s hard riding and a full suspension is not as tough on the body.”


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