The Last Lioness roars on
2024 Absa Cape Epic: In their sights
As one of the three remaining Last Lions, Hannele Steyn recently completed her 19th Absa Cape Epic. And it was one for the record books.
Hannele Steyn, Mike Nixon, and John Gale are the three remaining members the Last Lions, because they have completed every edition of the race so far. The Last Lions award was created to celebrate their achievement and will be given to the last rider among them who is still participating in the event. In 2023, all three of them completed their 19th Absa Cape Epic. Over the years, the Intrepid Three will eventually dwindle down until there is only one left standing - the Last Lion.
After the dust (and mud) settled, we caught up with Hannele to hear her thoughts.
ON HOW IT FELT TO FINISH ANOTHER ONE:
For all participants, crossing the finish line is one of the best feelings. Personally, I felt deep gratitude for being safe and being able to continue my Epic dream of being the last person standing and inspiring others, especially women.
ON THE EXTREMELY CHALLENGING WEATHER CONDITIONS:
I have experienced very bad conditions in many races before, including the Munga 2021, the Freedom Challenge 2008, the Trans Alps, and the La Ruta, but stage 6 of this year’s race was up there with the worst I’ve ever seen. It became a test of my physical abilities, my bike's condition, and my emotional drive. The cold was especially tough, and at one point my bike had so much mud on it that I couldn't lift it up a switchback on a singletrack climb, making it impossible to ride. That's when a fellow cyclist stopped to help me, and it felt like we were cycling uphill into a waterfall and downhill down a waterfall! My brakes started to fail and I couldn't feel my hands and feet anymore. I was very happy to get through that one.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIP IN THE RACE THAT MEASURES ALL:
In Ingrid Avidon I had a fantastic partner. I asked Ingrid to join me just two weeks before the race, and she’s used to longer, gravel-style races so the intensity and technical aspect of the trails were I bit of a challenge but she didn't need much motivation. I helped by coaching her on the technical aspects while we were riding, and we found humour in the situation. She's now a tech expert, haha!
ON BREAKING HER ARM JUST BEFORE THE RACE:
I broke my arm 7 weeks before Epic, which obviously was less than ideal. It took some shots, but it held up well until the end, even with a few tumbles between myself and Ingrid!
ON ANYTHING SHE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT YEAR:
There's not much more you can do besides the basics of training hard, eating correctly, having all the necessary kit and extra parts, and ensuring your bike is in excellent condition, along with a great partner who shares the same mindset, to prepare for the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race. But if anything, I would definitely try to have my partner confirmed well before the race and train with her.