It is considered to be one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world: The 16th edition of Cape Epic took place in South Africa from 17 to 24 March 2019. Local and international mountain bikers tackled the challenging eight-day adventure through the Western Cape region. Team Lightriders, led by RIBAG CEO Andreas Richner, competed alongside the world's best mountain bikers. The route took the mountain bikers through 700 kilometres of untamed, untouched countryside and over 15,000 metres of altitude difference.
24 March 2019 / 70 km / climbing 1800 m
"The final stage into Val de Vie was an absolute highlight, never before has the mood of the riders been so relaxed before a stage. Our start was optimal and we were able to fight our way up to the highest point of the stage against rank 15 of our category. Unfortunately a flat rear tyre stopped us and we had to repair it three times until it lasted. We finished the last stage in 24th place, which is also our final result.
With the five months preparation time we achieved the absolute optimum. The race was very tough, especially mentally. The distances and the number of race days were challenging and despite good planning all sorts of unforeseen things happened. Although we had our sufferings, we never lost the humour and always had a lot of fun together, our spirit was great. The racing fever gripped us, like 20 years ago, an unbelievable experience. Above all we experienced one thing in body and soul: Never give up"!
23 March 2019 / 89 km / climbing 2650 m
22 March 2019 / 100 km / climbing 2850 km
"We're very happy to have the most difficult stages behind us, the day today was very demanding and exhausting. For the first time, the start wasn't as good as it should have been. We had very heavy legs and somehow didn't recover so well from the previous days. So shortly after the start we had to let various teams that are positioned around us in the ranking move. Also in the first race hour Marc crashed and we had to remove a branch from the changer. All this meant that we didn't really get into the right gear. The stage was very challenging, with many metres of altitude difference and with almost 6 hours of racing. The area was beautiful, but you can enjoy it better without a bike. It was a bite through from A-Z. In the second part we both crashed into a tree because we made a mistake due to lack of concentration. In the end we were just happy that the finish came closer and closer. Marc had to fight a lot because of his hands. These are covered with blisters that all burst open. In the downhill we lost time because the pain was so great due to the setbacks and finally finished 26th. We hope we can regenerate well until tomorrow. We still manage the two days, the worst is behind us. Our goal is still to get back into the top 20."
21 March 2019 / 43 km / climbing 1000 m
Today was the time trial on the stage plan. In the morning we got on the bike with heavy legs, because yesterday was very exhausting. We didn't start until 08:30, which allowed us to drive in for a very long time. This helped that the muscles loosened and warmed up a bit. Time trial meant to give everything on the whole track and to finish as fast as possible. The riders started in a 20 second rhythm and we managed to catch up with them successively, up to a certain point. When we finally arrived at the finish line and were told that we had finished 10th, we were very happy, we hadn't expected that. The time trial was very intense, but not so long. This gave us more recovery time in the afternoon, which is definitely an advantage in the preparation for tomorrow's top stage. It is now the 6th day, over 100 km and 2800 altitude meters, which will be a big challenge.
20 March 2019 / 107 km / climbing 2800 m
“Today's stage was the toughest of the whole Cape Epic. We were about 6 hours on the trail. Shortly after the start we had a 20 km long ascent to the Grönlandberg. The weather was nasty with a lot of fog and rain, which was very exhausting. Nevertheless we could very well position ourselves and also keep up in the downhill in the front quarter.
The following kilometers were characterized by a steady up and down with many single trails and sandy ground, which was extremely challenging - but the landscape was beautiful. In the flatter part we could ride in the slipstream until we had another breakdown about 30 km before the finish. This time it hit Marc with a rockfall at the rear wheel, which forced us to stop and cost valuable time. Although we were a lot faster in repairing, we lost between 5-7 minutes and didn't find the same rhythm as before. Although we didn't catch up so well, we were able to finish today's stage in 22nd place, which also brought us a little further forward in the overall classification.
Physically we are well despite the great effort, the only handycap so far was the material. We now hope for more luck in the next days. Tomorrow the time trial is scheduled and we expect a rather short but intensive race duration of about 2 hours.”
19 March 2019 / 90 km / climbing 2250 m
“Today was a somewhat shorter stage on the agenda, but it was a tough one. The biggest difference in altitude was on the last 20km, and the terrain was extremely challenging, as the ground was almost exclusively sandy. The first hour of the race went very well, at KM 35 we crossed a creek bed and a sharp stone bored through the tyre of my front wheel. We were able to make a makeshift repair, but the air had escaped after a few kilometres. Only with the third stop we could replace the hose, so that the repair stopped. We were at an unfavourable place, shortly before several flat kilometers, which led by the vineyards. Several teams could pass us and it was difficult to make up the difference. Nevertheless, we made it to the finish line and secured 28th place. Tomorrow is an exhausting day, with more than 100km and 2800 meters of altitude, 800 of it directly after the start. Nevertheless it is our goal to get back into the top 20 in the next days.”
18 March 2019 / 111 km / climbing 2700 m
"On today's race day we got up well recovered, very early at 04:45h. In starting block B we started at 07:15h. In the first hour we could ride at the top of our category. In the middle part we had to reduce the speed a bit. Since my team mate Marc had cramps on the last kilometres, we had to take a little break and partly push the bike. We are happy, we arrived at the finish and are surprised that we even slipped one place forward in our category. In the afternoon we were able to enjoy a relaxing massage and are now ready for tomorrow's stage, which is a bit shorter but has the same height difference."
17 March 2019 / 21 km / climbing 600 m
Team Lightriders finished the first day of the race with a very good 19th place. "Despite great nervousness, we were able to divide our strengths well and harmonized as a team," says Andreas Richner. "Our goal for the second day is to defend and maintain our good position."
"Stepping into the unknown"
Interview with CEO Andreas Richner
As a former mountain bike athlete and successful entrepreneur, Andreas Richner knows how to deliver top performance. In an interview, the CEO of RIBAG Licht AG talks about his preparations for his mountain bike race in South Africa and what it's like to venture into unknown terrain.
More than 20 years ago you were an active mountain bike athlete, now you are looking for the kick in one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. Why are you doing this? Breaking out of everyday life helps me to experience the unknown and add another chapter to life. It is fun to explore the limits of one's own body and to grow with new challenges. Balancing work, family, sport and relaxation is a particularly challenging task that has to be mastered.
To survive an eight-day race you have to invest a lot in sports. What do you pay attention to if you want to achieve top performances? The right preparation is elementary. This is not so easy with the "Cape Epic" - it is the first time that I participate. I don't know how I react to the distance, the weather, the strain. The art of preparation lies in adjusting to the unknown - and being able to react to the unpredictable. I proceed step by step and strengthen my mental focus.
How important do you think mental strength is? That is the most important thing. Especially during very long lasting activities, like the eight-day stage race in South Africa, I need mental strength to overcome my own limits. This focus already has a big influence on the environment during the preparation. All senses and all actions are guided by it. During the race, things can go differently than planned. I go through all kinds of situations and train them - physically as well as mentally.
Do you also pay attention to your diet? In any case. The energy balance must correspond to the training you have done. I try to eat high-quality and healthy food.
What does your training plan look like? The training follows a structured plan and includes various disciplines such as strength training, indoor cycling, mountain biking, jogging and coordination training. Conditions such as duration, intensity, terrain and climate are also included. On the sporting level, it is important to know your own limits. For some it is the distance, for others the speed, for others it is the climatic conditions. The training of unpredictable situations is also important. So the material is tested extensively, the mountain bike as well as the clothing, and I simulate breakdowns. In South Africa I am alone with my team partner, there is no foreign help on site. I train, so to speak, the improvisation, what I do if not everything goes according to plan. During the race in such situations quick solutions have to be found in the inner dialogue. I also have to train how to deal with physical deficits - what do I do when I no longer have energy or the feeling that I can't finish the course. What if I fall or have a breakdown? In order to reach my goal I train different strategies with which I can (hopefully) overcome such situations.
With such a comprehensive training plan - do you still have time for recovery? Recovery is just as important as concentrated, active training. But having enough recovery is also the biggest difficulty, because I have other obligations besides training. Sometimes it is only enough for the recovery phase during sleep, which would not be suitable as a permanent condition. Stretching and tensioning are just as much a part of training as regular saunas, steam baths and massages. I also allow myself conscious rest days without training to recharge my batteries.
So far, you have not only dared to take the step into the unknown as an athlete, but as an entrepreneur with RIBAG you have also repeatedly overcome limits. Can entrepreneurship be compared to new challenges as an athlete? The difference is not so great. It all starts with a dream, the development of a vision, strategic planning and finally execution. I imagine a very high mountain that I want to climb. The best way is to move forward step by step and never lose sight of the summit. The confidence that my own dreams are achievable, strengthens me on my way. In addition to suitable equipment, patience, perseverance and a suitable team are needed to strengthen my back and optimally complement my abilities. Good things can only succeed with solid preparation, and success means an optimal balance of all elements.
Where do you get your personal motivation for new challenges from? I need challenges so that I feel comfortable, this in itself creates motivation. They have the same effect on me as the interplay of light and shadow: they shape my success, but also point out weaknesses that need to be eliminated or accepted. In sports I am motivated by the constant exploration of where the body's performance lies, how I can improve during a training phase and where the limits of my resilience lie. At work, I am motivated above all by mental challenges. Here, too, I always come up against limits that have to be overcome. The appeal of the new equally affects both areas and motivates me again and again.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the step into the "unknown"? Do not be afraid, live your dreams and never lose faith in yourself and your strengths.