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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Hannele Steyn - The last Lioness: ABSA CAPE EPIC 2019: No 16 and my 16th one

If you haven’t heard of Hannele Steyn in mountain biking circles I suggest you brush up on one of South Africa’s finest talents. Her sporting C.V. is an impressive one and she has achieved so much throughout her years of professional and competitive racing. Hannele is still making her mark in the mountain biking world. She is currently one of the ABSA Cape Epic “Last Lions”. These amazing athletes have completed every Cape Epic since its inception 14 years ago, and Hannele is the only female in this prestigious group of four. Beyond her athletic achievements Hannele is also a thriving business woman. She has created a health food brand; Passion4Wholeness and is actively involved in teaching athletes about the benefits of correct eating and nutrition. She is also a coach and skills instructor.

"Every year I write my own little story before the next year’s Epic. About my journey after the last one, my training, my riding partner, new and old sponsors, etc. So, as you know, I am the only woman that has done all 15 Cape Epic races so far and together with three men, the four of us are all trying to be the last one standing. It is difficult, because we have become like a sort of small family who wishes each one the best of luck for the race, although we are wanting to be the last one left standing, or riding for that matter.

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After 15 years, I really have so many memories and stories. The good, the bad, the pain, the experiences. How I have seen the race develop and how I started as a very competitive pro rider, to a “trying to hang in there” rider, to a “realizing I am too old now” competitor. BUT I will never lose my competitive spirit and I am now my biggest rival. For me, it is about doing the very best I can, never losing respect for the race and to never give up. I love this race and every year brings its own joy and disappointments.

The very first one in 2004, I raced with a very good friend of mine and we finished 2nd in the mixed category. In 2005, I won it in the ladies’ category, an awesome achievement. In 2006, I did it with my ex-husband and we tried again in 2015, not re-marrying, but re-Epic’ing…we are still very good friends LOL.

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In 2008, my partner pulled out, along with 2005 and 2015, but I was allowed to finish on my own. In 2007, I raced with the amazing, Mr Downhill himself, Greg Minnaar, which was another one of my life’s memories.

In 2010, I finished 2nd in the ladies’ category with a VERY strict, German pro rider, Yvonne Craft. We held the leader’s jersey for many stages and won almost all of the stages. Unfortunately, we lost too much time on one of the days, where the African sun took its toll on Yvonne who had to prepare during their winter, and this moved us into 2nd position overall.

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In 2011, I finished 6th in the ladies’ category and only managed to win one stage. After 2012, I decided to take it a little easier after dragging myself through the race while being very ill and I also had my second back fusion in September 2012 after which the doctors said, like the first one in 2008, that I will only be able to get back on a bike in 6 months’ time to which I responded; “that is my next Epic race”. Say no more, because here I am still standing.

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I did however realize that my competitive days were over. In 2016, I rode with my best friend, Anneke Whelan, which was a complete rookie when we started to prepare for the race, 12 months before the time. She promised she would give her best, which she did and amazed everyone by finishing with me in 11th place in the women’s category. Unfortunately, she had an injury before 2017 and I rode with a girl, less than half my age, Nicky Gillomee and we were named "the Lioness and her Cub" (OMW)!!

In 2018, I raced with one of the most amazing people that I have met, Jeannie Dreyer and because I had been honoured by the new category for All African women which was named after me, and because Jeannie is super strong, we decided to race in the UCI category again. Needless to say, that although I loved every minute, I was in the red zone for 8 out of 8 days. We finished 7th overall and the second All African Ladies!

Anneke and I started to train very hard for 2019 and were excited to be asked to ride for the Land Rover team. My best friend and I, and another adventure. Sad news came when she had to withdraw due to the same injury again. My 2019 Epic will be in her honour.

I have my own company, Passion4Wholeness and then I am a co-owner in Breakaway Rides which teaches women and children better mountain biking skills and fitness. My business partner and the founder of Breakaway Rides, Katja Steenkamp is now my Epic 2019 partner. How blessed am I to ride with an amazing friend, very accomplished rider and my business partner? She is also the winner of Tour du Afrique 2017.

How cool is it that your work is what you love to do best! We are both excited to face this challenge and journey together.

We are proud to ride in the first, all ladies Land Rover team. We will both be riding on Momsen bikes which have been my bicycle sponsor for the last 5 years already. I must mention how proud and grateful I am, for the support of PVM Nutritional Sciences and Polar IHF products which have been supporting me as sponsors for the last 25 years and CWCycles for almost 10 years. I am also a proud ambassador of, Zurreall, which has been supporting me for 2 years already. I am not only the Last lioness, but the oldest woman who finished in the top 10 UCI category last year. This is not really something I want to brag about, but they might start to award me pensioners discount 😊

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From an Epic in 2003 with no Woollies meals, no Wi-Fi, no chill tent, no camper vans, no big water tables, no prize money, no mobile showers, no mechanical services or massage services, to an event that is now astounding the world!! I could not be prouder to have seen the growth and vision of the untamed race.

Yes, I could have bought a few houses with the entry fees, but money can never buy the memories I have. "

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