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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Hannele Steyn is about to make it an Epic fifteen

The Lioness” of the Cape Epic is ready to roar

With only days to go before the Cape Epic Mountain Bike Challenge on 18 March – Hannele Steyn, 52-year-old veteran Springbok mountain cyclist and the only woman in the world to have completed every one of these gruelling races – is ready to take on the mountains of the Cape once more.

“The Lioness”, as she is affectionately known, says she is as ready as she can be for this, her fifteenth Cape Epic Mountain Bike Challenge.

Hannele says she will be racing in the all-African women’s category where she will be giving it her all to do the category proud and to finish the race safe and sound. This year she and her teammate, Jeannie Dreyer, will be racing for the Hannele Steyn Trophy, named in her honour.

The picture of tenacity and sportsmanship, Hannele is the perfect ambassador for medical scheme Spectramed and Zurreal, a holistic solution to consumers’ and employers’ every healthcare, wellbeing, loyalty, lifestyle and financial services need. More importantly, when it comes to health and wellness Hannele really walks the talk.

“During my 14th race last year I became one of the ‘last four lions standing’ joining the ranks of such mountain biking greats as John Gale, Craig Beech and Mike Nixon, my strength and power is no longer that of a 20-year-old. However, I have the benefit of years of experience, having completed my first mountain bike race in 1987, which contributes richly to my racing strategy.

“For me it is mind over matter, if I give my best and I don’t win it is better than winning without having given my absolute best. This, however, does not take away from the fact that I really enjoy winning,” adds Hannele with a twinkle in her eye.

According to Hannele, mountain biking is growing in popularity and participation among South Africans, and with South African women in particular. “Mountain biking’s popularity has taken over from road cycling where, sadly, the popularity is on the decline due to the ever-increasing amount of accidents involving motorists and cyclists,” she says.

Luckily, South Africans don’t have to look far to get in the saddle again to enjoy their favourite form of exercise. Many have taken up mountain biking, a sport that offers riders the opportunity to get up close and personal with Mother Nature in the company of friends and family. Multi-stage mountain bike races have been steadily growing in popularity with some events on the calendar even having long waiting lists for entrants.

Here are some other valuable training tips from Hannele for anyone who is getting ready to compete in South Africa’s most majestic yet gruelling mountain biking race. “First and foremost,” says she, “at this point you should no longer be training.”

“As far as training is concerned the work is done and what you need to do is to make absolutely sure that everything that is still within your control, such as your bike, your nutrition and your needs during the race, is perfectly in order. Remember, your greatest priority now is to complete the race unscathed.

“Other than that I have 20 important tips to share with participants of this and other mountain bike races,” advises Hannele.

  1. Concentrate on what you have done to prepare for the race and make this work for you.

  2. Ensure that your every nutrition need while on the bike is fully taken care of.

  3. Look after yourself in the days ahead of the race so you don’t fall or pick up a bug – right now safety is number one for you.

  4. Right now it is best for you to rather eat in at home and to eat what you know.

  5. Make very sure that your bike and your body are both in mint condition.

  6. Pack carefully and make a list of what you will need during the race. Make absolutely sure that you have the right clothing.

  7. When it comes to training, train less rather than more this week to ensure that you rest sufficiently in order to peak for the race.

  8. Visualise the race and get your mindset right!

  9. You can train as hard as you want and get the nutrition and training just right, but your mindset, must be in perfect harmony with your training and nutrition.

  10. Know that you are part of a team and that you will sometimes have to carry your partner and that your partner may sometimes have to carry you.

  11. Focus on your goal and the reward of reaching the end.

  12. Embrace the race, look around and love the race and remember that it is a wonderful, life enriching journey.

  13. During the event, stick to the same type of foods and energy drinks that you are used to if you are concerned that your system may not agree with what is on offer at mealtimes or at the watering points. Try not to eat or drink too many sugary foods and beverages. Rather opt for natural, whole foods like bananas, nuts or dates.

  14. Also try and stick to plain foods and do not eat spicy or fibrous food the day before the race or between stages.

  15. Full cream milk is a good recovery drink between stages. To make it even more nutritious, consider adding in some recovery protein powder.

  16. Make sure you are well hydrated before you begin the race. You should be taking in between 500 to 1000ml of liquid per hour during the stages.

  17. Stay off your feet as much as you can after each stage.

  18. If you really want to look like a pro, put on a warm jacket after each stage, take your recovery drink and then go for a 30 minute spin.

  19. Do not try out new things, such as new wheels or shoes, during the race.

  20. Once again, stay focused. It is easy to become demotivated if you face an injury or if you are not as fit as you had hoped to be.

Medical schemes, loyalty programme and sportspeople

“As you will see from my tips being in good health is a non-negotiable for any sportsman and woman. However, for a woman health and wellness is even more important. We are the carers of our family and to take care of our loved ones we need to be healthy ourselves. I really feel at peace with my medical aid and for me my loyalty programme is the cherry on top,” says Hannele.

“I may well be talking to the converted but you should not enter the Epic without belonging to a medical aid. While there is medical staff in attendance at all times you need to have a solid medical scheme in your corner should you end up being injured and require hospitalisation, medical procedures and rehabilitation.

“It helps having someone to talk to when it comes to the tricky subject of medical aid, and Spectramed knows me and will always make time for me. As a sportsperson this is so important.”

According to Hannele being able to avail herself of the best possible training facilities is another imperative: “I have been with Zurreal for years and I find it to be a true investment in my health. It means that I have all the benefits needed to remain on top of my training schedule. Best of all, I get to clock up rewards by the dozen while training. All I need to do is to submit my gym attendance every three months.”

“I had no idea how the rewards accumulated until I visited the dentist and was able to use my rewards card to pay for a crown without putting much of a dent in my accumulated cash rewards. By reading the newsletters and information I receive I’m learning more and more every day about how I can make my loyalty programme work for me,” Hannele adds.

“I am very, very aware that I am blessed to have the health to do what I am doing. Health cannot be underestimated. I thank my God that I can do anything that I wish to do at this stage of my life, ” she concludes.

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