Absa's Initiative to inspire more women onto bikes.
Photography: Anthony Churchyard
“The Absa Cape Epic is more than just a sponsorship for Absa; it is a platform for us to provide opportunities for communities to prosper and bring their possibilities to life.”
Tina Venter, Head of Corporate Affairs Services, Absa Group Ltd, is as passionate about #SheUntamed as the riders. “One of the ways we do this is through the exclusive Epic Tripper session where passionate women riders are given an opportunity to experience parts of the Absa Cape Epic while riding their bikes and cheering on the world’s best mountain bikers.”
A women-only Epic Trippers kicked off at the Lourensford Prologue, exposing already-fanatical mountain biking women to the hustle and bustle of the Absa Cape Epic by riding some of each of the first three day’s trails, cheering on the field at spectator points and mingling with the #SheUntamed ambassadors after the stage. For Baveesha Naran “it has been a dream to ride the Absa Cape Epic. The Absa training camp which took place at Karkloof Trails in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year was a brilliant taste of what to expect at the Absa Cape Epic. After the camp, I worked on my skills so I could enjoy this opportunity to the fullest.”
“Riding the Absa Cape Epic Trippers surrounded by inspirational women has been nothing short of priceless. I’m excited to be here and endeavour to tackle the Absa Cape Epic in the near future. I’m extremely grateful to Absa for making this tremendous move to support women in the MTB and cycling space.”
"Riding the Absa Cape Epic Trippers surrounded by inspirational women has been nothing short of priceless."
Historically, women have made up roughly 10% of most Absa Cape Epic fields; this year is no different, with 15 CM.com Women’s category teams and another eight all-women teams bucket-listing the Untamed African MTB Race, a number of #SheUntamed ambassador teams included. Not to mention the 47 women who began the race on 20 March in the Mixed category.
On 27 March, at Val de Vie Estate, Team AYLEZA’s Letshego Zulu will be joining the Amabubesi in 2022 - the exclusive three-time Absa Cape Epic finisher club - alongside newbie-partner sports doctor Phathokuhle Zondi. “The name - that’s an acronym of our three daughters’ names,” says Zondi, who’s not alone in the women’s field in balancing a busy career and motherhood. “It’s hard. But I have a diary. A strict diary. It’s about planning, and making time, and creating the support structures that allow you to do what you need to do.”
And then there’s the Last Lioness, one of the most inspirational riders in Absa Cape Epic history as one of just three riders to have completed every stage of every event. Hannele Steyn’s partner for her 18th is Alisha Myers, who will also join Amabubesi in 2022. Myers is a regular at mountain bike races around the world, and a passionate supporter of #SheUntamed if it leads to more women getting the obvious joy she does from the sport. “We should have a lot more representation, especially here”.
Women must allow themselves to do these things - there is no reason not to, for anyone.
For Steyn, the program has helped re-ignite her motivation as her streak at the event continues. “To see women getting excited about mountain biking and allowing themselves to do events like this is wonderful. I think we are moving away from the way we grew up, where rough-tough activities were for boys only, but it will take time. Women must allow themselves to do these things - there is no reason not to, for anyone. I think #SheUntamed helps with that, showing women that these events, and the sport, are only intimidating if they choose. These are personal barriers, not societal ones, and sometimes those are harder to overcome, but #SheUntamed’s full program is going to make a huge difference.”
Far from a once-a-year Absa Cape Epic show, #SheUntamed has a full programme of rides and workshops, partnered with Cycle Lab throughout the year, focusing on skills and fitness from beginner to expert, with goal events and multi-layer coaching pushing the next generation of Absa Cape Epic finishers into their new comfort zones.
“To spend three days sharing this experience with a group of amazing women, forge new friendships and be part of the inaugural #SheUntamed was quite special."
For Bonita Malherbe, the Epic Trippers experience was an opportunity to get a bit closer to the action. “To spend three days sharing this experience with a group of amazing women, forge new friendships and be part of the inaugural #SheUntamed was quite special. I got a new reality check and respect for the training required to do the Epic - so perhaps not just yet!” Not a clear ‘no’, then.
And that’s peak #SheUntamed; showing women to what’s possible in this sport.