Matthew Brittain (25) and James Thompson (26) won gold medals in the Men's lightweight coxless four event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Says Brittain: “I’ve always been a passionate cyclist and have spent most weekends on my bike. Naturally the Absa Cape Epic is the cycling event that excited me the most because it is such a world-class event right here in South Africa and is a true challenge. During my time as a rower I have spent many trips to the dam debating whether a rower could do the Epic, without doing very much cycling specific training. After the Olympics my teammate and I asked the Epic if they would be interested in allowing us to race. They said, “Yes!” and now I am nervous.” Thompson adds: “Thanks to PWC and the JAG foundation, Matthew and myself have been given the opportunity to fulfill a long time dream of riding the Absa Cape Epic.”

According to Brittain, the word that best describes the Absa Cape Epic is ‘dramatic’. He continues: “James and I have trained together most days since 2006, but riding together only sporadically. We train 3 times on day one, twice on day two, three times on day three, twice day four, and so on. We get every fifth Sunday off. We row every day at least once supplemented with gym, indoor rowing, running and obviously cycling. Diet wise I’m pretty relaxed. I believe the body craves the food that has the nutrients it needs, so I eat what I crave. I just eat less or more to maintain my weight.” The one word that describes the event for Thompson is ‘world-class’. He adds: “Cycling has always been a big part of our rowing training and we try add as much as we can to the rowing training. In the build up for the Epic, we have squeezed every extra km of riding we can. This, however, is still a lot less riding than most competitors.”

Olympic rowing champions Matthew Brittain (left) and James Thompson will participate in their first Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race, which takes place from March 17 to 24 in the Western Cape.

With regards to the route, Brittain says he is seriously intimidated by stage 2 (145km). “I hope it doesn’t take too much out of me. I fear the rain, nothing makes mountain biking tougher.” Thompson reckons you have to be as tough as nails to complete the event. “I haven’t finished one yet, but I guess that’s what you’ll have to be. I think any sporting goal that you are not sure you can achieve is worth doing. Being mountain bike mad means that the Epic is the must do event on the calendar. I got seriously nervous when I looked at this year’s route! I heard day 2 is going to be a cracker.”

Thompson adds that they are riding for the JAG foundation. “We’re looking to raise funds through their give and gain website, that can be used to educate and develop children in need using the platform of sport. Sport has taught me so much and so I understand the value they can add to these kids’ lives.”

In his free time, Brittain likes to braai with his girlfriend and friends, and watch movies. “I like rock climbing as well, but am not very good.” Brittain would like to finish the Absa Cape Epic this year. He says: “I hope that my teammates and I can push on from our Olympic success and have another great international season of rowing!” He describes himself as a down to earth person, who is not afraid of a challenge. “I don’t like to let my teammates down and I approach things aggressively, ruthlessly and methodically,” he says. “I do rowing for a living, but its not a very good living so I do some part time work for one of our sponsors, Etana Insurance.”

For Thompson, there is not much free time. “Rowing training is basically full time. The free time I have I spend recovering, reading or watching movies. Besides completing the Epic, I’d like to play my part in developing a light four that is capable of medaling at the 2013 World Rowing Championship.” Thompson describes himself as passionate, with a relentless drive to improve. Besides rowing, he is also a motivational speaker.

Adventure enthusiasts not participating in the Absa Cape Epic are invited to enter the Liqui Fruit Cape Times Vineyard Races, which consist of the Vineyard Rideand Vineyard Run. The races promise participants breathtaking scenery and spectacular terrain. The Vineyard Run offers a fun run (6km) and a trail run (15km) and the Vineyard Ride offers a 26km and 51km race. Interested riders can register online at www.vineyard-races.co.za. Closing date for entries is 1 March or when entries sell out.

Visit www.cape-epic.com for more details and to see where the riders are online during the race.

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