The Absa Cape Epic has a long history of interesting celebrity pairings teaming up to undertake the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race to raise funds and awareness for charity. The 2018 the race is no different and now boasts one of the most competitive charity pairings yet, in the form of Douglas Ryder and Jan Scannell, riding for Dimension Data, technology partner to the Absa Cape Epic.
Ryder is the team principal of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, Africa’s only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) WorldTour team, while Scannell is better known as Jan Braai and needs no introduction to South Africans given our predilection for that form cooking and socialising.
The pair will be riding the Absa Cape Epic to raise funds for Qhubeka’s Bicycles Change Lives programme. As the team principal of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Ryder is aware of the transformative impact of bicycles and cycling. The team has given South African riders like Louis Mentjies, Jaco Venter and now Nicholas Dlamini the opportunity to prove themselves on cycling’s global stage. They have distributed over 80 000 bicycles, since 2005, to help people – from impoverished areas of South Africa – to get to school, work and clinics. Bicycles, especially when given to young girls, reduce school dropout rates by cutting the travel time to and from schools by up to 75%.
With Dimension Data as title sponsor of Ryder’s team and the Official Technology Partner to the Absa Cape Epic the link between Ryder and the race has clear commercial ties. But Ryder’s focus has always been on showcasing and developing cycling in Africa – a goal which is echoed by Absa Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak.
“I’ve been talking about riding the Cape Epic for a while now,” said Ryder, “and I think it is about time that I actually did it. It’s an iconic race, and Kevin (Vermaak, the race founder) has always shown myself and the team incredible support. He has put on a world-class event in South Africa, which has shown just what incredible things this country is capable of.”
Ryder’s partner, Jan Braai is best known for his television show, best-selling cook books and as the man behind Braai Day – the re-appropriation of Heritage Day into a national festival of South Africa’s favourite pastime, gathering around a fire to prepare a meal. To non-South African readers, the braai/Chisa Nyama/Ukosa is far more than just a method of food preparation, it is a cultural phenomenon and the scene for passionate talks about the other uniting bedrock of South African society, sport.
What might come as a surprise to many though is how competitive Ryder and Jan Braai are likely to be at the 2018 Absa Cape Epic. Ryder represented South Africa on the road for over a decade, gaining national cycling colours for the first time in 1993 in a career which took in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, a victory in the 2001 Cape Town Cycle Tour and three trips to the World Championships as a member of the South African road cycling team. Jan Braai meanwhile has taken part in the South African Duathlon Championships and has a converted sub-three Cycle Tour to his name. But perhaps most importantly this year he has clocked up a few thousand kilometres on his bike while on his Tour de Braai gravel grinding tours.
“Doug and I intend tackling the event casually, enjoying the scenery, chatting to fellow riders, stopping wherever spectators are having a braai and perhaps tasting some wine at some of the many wine farms we will pass on the beautiful 2018 route. In preparation for the event we are both following the high protein diet of mainly braaied meat. Fitness wise it’s going well and although we’re not quite in any shape to podium, we take comfort in the knowledge that round is also a shape, and half of all the riding is statistically downhill” Jan Braai quipped with a smile.
*The 2018 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from 18 to 25 March and the much anticipated route can be viewed here.