It is probably no surprise to find some of the biggest names in cycling at the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike event this week, but there are also a host of other stars of the sporting world trying their hand at conquering the grueling eight-day event.
Both the men’s and women’s Olympic mountain bike champions, a Tour de France champion, a winner of 14 Grand Tour stages and cycling world champions are joined at the event by World Rugby Cup winners, record-breaking cricket and canoeing stars and a member of the crew that completed the fastest row across the Atlantic.
Not surprisingly Olympic men’s champion Nino Schurter and partner Matthias Stirnemann are lying second overall after the opening Prologue on Sunday, and the women’s gold medal winner in Rio, Jenny Rissveds, is leading the mixed category with mountain biking legend Thomas Frischknecht.
Also predictable was the fact 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and his partner, Tour de France stage winner George Hincapie, finished without too much drama as third team in the Dimension Data Masters Category.
And after 14 Grand Tour stage winner Joaquim “Purito” Rodriquez and his Spanish teammate, former World mountain biking champion Jose Hermida cruised home, Rodriquez said it was great to do something new.
“I am looking forward to the adventure of it, and most looking forward to discovering a new type of cycling. I am excited to see how it is here because I have never been to South Africa.
“This is a totally new adventure for me. I haven’t done anything like this in the last 20 years. Living in a motorhome, always talking, always talking with friends and even talking on the trails” -- and with Hermida there is sure to be lots of good-natured banter.
But the non-cycling sports stars did not always have things their own way on Sunday.
The kicker of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning drop goal, Joel Stransky, crashed heavily and is out the race.
2007 RWC winning captain John Smit, said he “had no issues” on Sunday, a relief after he “had all his issues” on Saturday when he crashed in a pre-race warm-up ride and rode the opening stage with a few roasties on his right leg.
Seven-time Dusi winner Martin Dreyer had some personal issues of his own to deal with thanks to his early start time.
“I Just want to thank the Epic for putting me in a whole world of pain by sending my wife off two minutes behind me,” he said with his tongue firmly in his cheek after finishing a couple of minutes behind his wife, Jeannie, and her partner Sam Sanders.
“It was horrible waiting for her to pass me. It was much better once she gave me the smug look she always does when she passes me".
For Martin Dreyer and his partner Adam Foster the night before the Prologue was also far from the ideal, relaxed evening resting that he wanted before eight days of intense mountain biking.
Foster, to use Dreyer’s canoeing terminology, “wrapped his bike” shortly after registering on Saturday.
“It was completely my own fault,” said Foster after finishing the prologue. “At the hotel I was driving the camper van with a bike trailer at the back. I could not see the trailer and as I turned to get out of the parking lot, my bike’s wheel scraped against a small wall and broke the bike almost in two.”
After putting out calls and pleas on social media to everybody they could think of to try and find a replacement bike, “We ended up borrowing a bike from George Todd, the CEO of Merchant. He luckily had just had it serviced.”
Obviously there was nothing wrong with the bike -- Forster’s time was 21 minutes faster than last year for the Prologue.
Riaan Manser, best known for his extreme adventures, including a record-breaking row across the Atlantic with his wife Vasti, cycled with a stranger after a competition to find him a partner and was relieved that all went “with no problems”.
“I was worried. You always worry when you have never ridden with your partner and you don’t know how it will go. But it was perfect and we got on well.”