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The cycling legends and the five-person podium

By Cape Epic, 04/04/17, 11:45AM HST


Ever wondered why UCI World Cup mountain bike events have a five-person podium instead of the traditional three?

Two legendary riders taking part in the 2017 Absa Cape Epic – and competing against each other – know the reason very well, and laughed this week as they recounted events from 23 years ago.

It all started in July, 1994, when Cairns, Australia, hosted a World Cup series race.

On that day fresh-faced 17-year-old Cadel Evans of Australia was racing his first World Cup event, using it as preparation for the junior world championships the next month.

Also in the event was Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands, by then a seasoned 27-year-old and one of the world’s top mountain bikers.

The racing was fast and furious, with Brentjens eventually emerging as the winner. Roaring home in fifth position in a remarkable performance for such a young rider was Evans.

Evans recalls how the race organisers, keen to boost mountain biking in the country, asked the then UCI president who was at the event “if they could have five riders on the podium … because I was Australian and a junior”.

Permission was duly given and photographs from the time show young Evans aside the traditional three-person podium with Brentjens on the top step.

“From that time on the podium in World Cup races is still five places,” laughed Brentjens in conversation with Evans while at the Absa Cape Epic. “That was the main reason … your fifth place.”

“Yes, it was a request from the organiser … it gave exposure and opportunity to two more teams,” added Evans.

Last week Brentjens and Evans were racing against each other again across large tracts of the Western Cape in the Masters category – for teams in which both riders are over 40-years-old – at the Absa Cape Epic. Evans and US partner George Hincapie eventually emerged victorious, winning the category while Brentjens and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo finished third, just seven minutes back after eight days of racing.

“Here we are again, 23-years later, racing against each other,” said Evans.

Brentjens has long been a huge fan of the Absa Cape Epic, having won it overall with Belgian Roel Paulissen and then going on to win the Masters category five times in a total of 12 finishes.

He was one of the first to dub the event “the Tour de France of mountain biking”.

Evans, of course, earned international acclaim by winning the Tour de France itself after turning from the mountain bike to road racing.

Now he is back on his mountain bike and clearly enjoyed his Absa Cape Epic experience.

“This is an absolutely fantastic event. I have raced for some 20 years on the road and mountain bike and I have never ever experience anything like the Cape Epic.”