|Joeri van Leeuwen
| The Cape Epic is an 8-day mountainbike stage race held annually in South Africa, for two-person teams. It has the highest possible UCI classification -- "stage hors categorie". The only other four such races include the Tour (!), Giro & Vuelta. So the entire world top starts there. But, uniquely, amateurs can too.
This year "Team ASTRON / SKA SA-NL" (Joeri van Leeuwen and Ewout Aman, a friend of Eric Kooistra) got a much coveted starting invitation, for a race starting with a televised prologue from the U. Cape Town campus, over Table Mountain, followed by 7 days through the sandy and dry Western Cape. Last week, after months of hard training, they thus competed in a field including several Olympic, world and national champions.
For amateurs the goal isn't, of course, to win -- It is to finish the eight, brutal 100-km stages, all off-road and filled with steep big-rock climbs; narrow, hairy descents, and many many kilometers through the desert sands. Without breaking bodies and bikes too much.
After 8 days in the heat; about 20 crashes and many chafing wounds; one wheel completely demolished by a 20-km desert patch, and one 2-km rocky descent on only a rim (!) after an unfixable flat; and after much dust and many many kilometers, Joeri and Ewout finished on Sunday. Proud of finishing, and of their final 76th position in the Open Men category, including pros.
ASTRON technology thrives in the SA extremes; astronomers can too.
|JvL/Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/Sportpics