Vision Is Not Overrated – Especially during the World’s Toughest MTB Stage Race

A day in the life of the Oakley guys who cleaned your lenses at the Absa Cape Epic

Shane Chorley and John Smit rocking Oakley Radarlock sunglasses during the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
Shane Chorley and John Smit rocking Oakley Radarlock sunglasses during the Absa Cape Epic.
Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

It can’t be said enough – the Absa Cape Epic is ‘an epic’ not just for the riders, but everyone involved. We caught up with Zee Ismail, who ran the 10-man lens cleaning crew for Oakley at the water points. Zee himself is a previous two-time finisher of the race, so he knows what it takes to be out there and he runs his crew in much the same way a team manager would run a race team.

“The night before we have a debrief of what happened during the day’s stage – check if there was anything that we need to take note of; or if we need to ask for extra supplies from the race village; or an instruction from the Oakley ZA office that needs to be executed,” he explains. “That is followed by the planning for the next day,” he says.

The Oakley lens cleaning crew in action.
The Oakley lens cleaning crew in action.

According to Ismail the crew is split into two five-man teams who deploy to water points two and three each day. “The same teams won’t do the same water points for the whole week, so we alternate to keep it fresh,” he says. “We plan according to how long it will take to get to each point on the morning which then determines what time we get up.”

“Usually we would wake up at about 5:00 and roll-out somewhere before 6:00. We leave at the same time, it’s so very important to know that everyone is on the road when we roll out. From there the water point guys two and three split and we try and setup the same time as everyone else,” he says.

According to Ismail most of the lens cleaning work they do happens at water point two, but water point three is the longest day. “Often eight hours out there, on our feet all day – we have to keep smiling and stay positive to transfer that motivation on to the riders. To do that we have to hydrate and fuel properly,” much like the riders.

Ismail sees his water point three crew much as a supporters team too.

Oakley's hydrophobic solution application pen.
Oakley’s hydrophobic solution application pen.

On the technical side, lens technology has evolved so much over the past few years that the cleaning technology has had to take major leaps too. “Depending on how dirty they are, we dip them in water to get all the dust off and then thereafter we dry and put on the Hydrophobic solution with the pen that we have here and then clean it once again with a clean microfibre cloth,” says Ismail, before explaining how the Hydrophobic coating prevents water from leaving streaks and sheens on the lens and creates a smudge-resistant barrier that repels skin oils and sunscreens..

The crew cleaned all brands of eyewear, of course. “Guys were super stoked, they kind of knew us by name from sort of day three already,” Ismail says.

When the Oakley lens cleaning crew were done with a pair of sunnies they were practically as good as new.
When the Oakley lens cleaning crew were done with a pair of sunnies they were practically as good as new.

 Why does someone like Ismail, who is not in the full-time employ of Oakley, keep coming back to the race to work on it? “It’s the best race on the planet in terms of mountain biking, but there is also something else about the event that draws you into it. You can’t just sit at home and follow it on social media and stuff like that. I have a lot of friends who race up in the UCI category – both men’s and women’s – so it is very cool to see them out here and encourage them and follow the racing as it’s happening live. Plus the epic is like a family!”

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