Cape Town: Hailed as one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world, the 2018 Cape Epic was once again conquered by Team Pyga EuroSteel in winning fashion, the duo of Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop winning the African Special Jersey as the first African team to cross the finish line and lift the Burry Stander Memorial Trophy. The final results placed the team 12th position overall with over 7 minutes and 46 seconds ahead of the next African team.
Also achieving incredible results in the Cape Epic, was the second Team Pyga EuroSteel duo of Phillimon Sebona and Pieter Du Toit who crossed the line 26th overall, 25th in their category and 6th place in the African standings.
Achieving this didn't quite work out as the strategy book suggested. A day before the Cape Epic Prologue began, Julian Jessop, the 21-year-old team member was called up to replace Philip Buys and start alongside Matthys Beukes. Philip Buys who was suffering a severe viral infection was in no condition to compete and had to relinquish his spot. The reshuffled team now had the mix of formidable experience paired with up-and-coming youthful exuberance. A nervous yet equally determined Julian Jessop stepped up to the plate in stellar fashion. "It was a little bit scary when I realized I had to race with Matthys, but seeing as how Matthys has helped me get where I am, there was no need to be nervous or feel any pressure and I was determined to do well."
Living up to its reputation, the Cape Epic wasn't going to be an easy start for the team and after the opening Prologue to the Cape Epic, Matthys and Julian found themselves languishing 36th overall with five teams ahead of them in the African race. Julian Jessop had suffered a fall early on and Matthys' had to work through a puncture as well. Phillimon and Pieter were 34th overall after a tough first day outing.
The Prologue proved to be the largest setback for the teams as they began a fierce fight back over the course of the next few stages. At the end of Stage 1, Matthys and Julian had fought back to 23rd overall and were trailing the red jersey by 5 minutes 10 seconds. This gap continued to shrink - by the end of Stage 4, Matthys and Julian were leading the African charge with over 3 minutes ahead of the next African team and in 16th place overall. Phillimon and Pieter too were hard charging and had clawed back to 33rd overall.
By the end of Stage 6, the writing was on the wall for Matthys and Julian who had over 12 minutes in the bag ahead of the next African challengers and now were placed 13th overall. Phillimon and Pieter too, had made up four places and now were running 29th overall and 7th out of the African teams.
The Cape Epic Grande Finale is the ultimate finish line that teams cross at the end of a strenuous 658km of riding with an accumulated 13 530m of climbing. The Val de Vie Estate, the location of this year's Grand Finale saw the Team Pyga EuroSteel pairing of Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop cross the line as winners of the Absa African Special Jersey and in a solid 12th place overall. This result also saw the team raise the Burry Stander Memorial trophy which was created in 2013 and is awarded to the highest placed team from the continent. An epic achievement indeed.
Phillimon Sebona and Pieter Du Toit crossed the line in 26th place overall and the 6th African team to complete the demanding 8-day Cape Epic adventure. From the man who placed 42nd in 2017 and was awarded the Absa Development Jersey, Phillimon can hold his head high at proving his mettle and improving his result by such a margin.
The Marketing Manager from Subaru Southern Africa, Ashley Lazarus says, "every single person in this team can hold their heads high. Despite their setbacks, they showed the highest levels of tenacity, perseverance and professionalism in overcoming the odds and achieving this enormous result."
As the official vehicle sponsor to Team Pyga EuroSteel, Subaru Southern Africa moves the team to and from races in confidence. "There's no doubt that the Cape Epic is the ultimate adventure MTB race, and there's no other name that does adventure and mountain biking like Subaru."
Team Manager Ruan Lochner admirably sums up his sentiments after the race. "This team has shown tremendous courage with everyone stepping up a level, changing plans at the last minute and most importantly, working together as one. The riders, the mechanics, the sponsors, the supporters, the families are all in it together ... and while this is only a bike race, I believe it is such a simple philosophy that if we all worked together as one, we'd achieve so much just like these young men have done."