Credit: Kevin Benkenstein.

Tell us more about Climbing for Qhubeka? How did it all come about?

I first heard about Everesting on Twitter two and a bit years ago. It was at a time when I was looking for a new challenge in my riding, the timing was spot on. In the year or so before I had also gotten to know more about Qhubeka and really identified with the cause but had never had a platform to help them in any way. I thought that if I was going to do a challenge like this, then I should do it for a reason and try to use the rides to make someone else’s life a little better. It was as simple as that, the very first aim was to raise money for four bikes and it has just grown from there and I hope for more in the future.

Qhubeka is about getting kids on bikes. How did you get into cycling?

I was watching the Tour way back when I was 15 and I thought it looked like fun. I was enthralled by Lance’s comeback and thought I should try that too. My Dad went to the LBS and bought me an old bike (with downtube shifters and all) and I started riding. It was love at first climb, I think. I can’t recall the first ride but I know that it became my life very quickly.

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Credit: Kevin Benkenstein.

How did you choose the location for the climb in each city?

I try to look for a beautiful or meaningful climb with some history or other attraction. For Cape Town, I asked my friend Raoul de Jongh for help as we were going to do it together and he chose the beauty through The Glen up to Tafelberg Road. For JHB and Durban, I looked for climbs that had meaning. Sentech Tower is a Jozi icon and Inchanga is well know by almost everyone thanks to The Comrades. I also look at riding safety and parking safety and then lastly a ‘First Ascent’ if possible – a climb that no one has done an Everest on before.

How do you prepare for something like this? And how does the challenge compare to your normal training?

It’s very uncomplicated… Just ride lots, and climb lots. My riding doesn’t really change too much getting ready for these challenges but I do add a few hill intervals, 'morning miles' and at least one 1 hour effort in the four weeks ahead of the rides. I ride quite a bit as it is and I love climbing in general, even though I am a big guy, so I don’t feel the need to do too much more than normal.

Mental preparation is the most important, as the real challenge is to conquer your mind not the climb. I am a firm believer that anyone who rides 8-10 hours a week can complete an Everesting, they just need to be able to survive the mental test.

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Credit: Kevin Benkenstein.

Having successfully completed the first of the three in Cape Town what was the most challenging aspect?

The descents, funnily enough. We did 560 switchbacks during the ride, half being the downhill ones. The corners were really steep and required your whole body to work through them. This meant no relaxing and true recovery going downhill, so that was quite tough.

You spend a lot of time on the bike in the process, how do you handle eating and drinking?

I am a firm believer in eating and drinking on all rides, so I am lucky to have a stomach that is now used to that challenge. During the ride I try drink 500 ml of carb drink every hour and I eat an oat/raisin bar every hour too. If you don’t eat and drink from the beginning of a ride like this I believe that you will end up in trouble physically.

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Credit: Kevin Benkenstein.

Tell us about how your body reacts to that much time on a bike and what your mental state was going into the final climbs?

My arms and back were really tired, from the downhills, and so that was tough because it puts more pressure on your legs. I ended up riding in the drops quite a lot just to move the pressure around my muscle groups a bit. Raoul set a really good comfortable pace through the early hours though which was massively important and so we were able to hold that comfortably to the end. Our 26th ascent was actually our fastest. Physically we managed ourselves quite well I think. Mentally the challenge was just to keep the rhythm and to trust my legs to keep going, there were a few moments when I felt my power drop a bit but having so many people with us made a huge difference as I could always ride with someone and pace myself back to the lap times we were aiming for.

With each event only a week apart, are you concerned about recovery for the next two attempts?

I am, very. I am not good at recovery. I just want to ride my bike every day, so I am fighting myself to go easy and to take an extra day off here and there. I am trying to be responsible about my sleep, my eating and my effort on the bike. I hope that will work out. It’s definitely the hardest part of this whole event and especially the third one I suspect.

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Credit: Kevin Benkenstein.

How can people get involved?

Firstly through donations. I have a page which is the home for donations and a very secure and trusted website.

Secondly by coming to ride with me, everyone is invited whatever speed they want to ride. I just want them to get involved. For every person that does 1,600m of climbing with me R285 gets donated to Qhubeka. So anyone can Climb for Qhubeka this year and that is awesome.

Thirdly by coming to watch us ride, although I am sure that is boring to do it should definitely be done. I believe in the power of high fives, bum slaps, chelsea buns, and tiny cokes, so bring those along if you do.

Lastly likes, retweets, shares and so on – just spreading the word makes so much difference as you never know who might see and the more people who know about Qhubeka and their amazing work the better, even if they don’t do anything about that right now.