Imagine being the oldest rider in the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. Imagine riding it with your son, for your first time. Imagine you are just 56km from the end of the Grand Finale, and your finisher’s medal. Imagine crashing… and breaking your fingers, and seeing that medal disappear in a cloud of dust and pain.
Gustav Joyce is 70 years old, and has been one of the leading lights in the inspiration index at the 2019 event. His never-say-impossible attitude belies his age, and his son, a five-time starter of the race, with four finishes to his name, is equally determined.
That was tested to the full as Team Cyclesharp interrupted their celebratory final-stage cruise to the Ultimate Cape Winelands Estate - Val de Vie Estate, outside Paarl, with dad’s big crash at the 14km mark. To go with his sore back, Gustav now had a challenge holding the bars and braking – both essentials on a typically technical Absa Cape Epic route. With both the index and ring fingers on his right hand resembling pork sausages, it wasn’t long before the Hyenas were on the pair, as they assessed the situation and tried to make headway.
Gustav sent Retief on ahead, “Seuntjie, jy moet klaar maak vir die familie”. And Seuntjie listened, but not for long. He has done enough of these events to understand how teamwork makes the impossible possible. By the time he returned, others were now getting involved, as Hyena Richard watched on with encouraging neutrality. Lazarus Mathonzi, himself no stranger to the hardship of life towards the back of the Absa Cape Epic field, puts a hand on the old man’s back and pushes for as long as his exhausted body could manage, before resting a bit and repeating.
“This race won’t break me,” said Gustav, with a wry smile, as he contemplated another couple of hours of in the saddle.
Retief rode for a while, before realising dad was not thinking of the finish line. “I had to come back. It was so heart-breaking for me,” he said between pants – pushing is hard work, even for the youngsters. “I just started hearing him cringe; uhhh uhhh uhhh. It just broke my heart and I just stayed. And here we are, it looks like we are going to make it. Starting to believe the impossible.”
Pushing, pulling, encouraging – Retief admits to thinking it was possible when Hyena Rich started to make inroads into their positivity about 40km out, but was a broken man from about two kilometres out, visibly emotional as exhaustion, relief and reality set in. He and a clearly shocked and sore Gustav crossed the finish, to cheers and tears – anyone who claims not to have shed a few with Retief, is not being terribly truthful – to a welcome from their wives and Kleintjie’s own son, still too young to comprehend what the fuss about grandpa was all about.
“We are warriors.” The final, fitting words, as Gustav finally allowed a medic to look at his wounds, from the 16th Absa Cape Epic.