You know the race inside out from the outside, now that you are inside it, what has surprised you about it?

Well, from an organisational side, it has refined my creativity for the race. I have seen that some of the things we had in place that may have worked 10 years ago, but aren’t relevant now. Times have changed and somethings may no longer make sense. From a personal experience, I can now totally understand why this race is so addictive – and why people will finish on Sunday and enter on Monday.

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Kevin Vermaak and Cedric Jakobsen during stage 4 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 17th March 2016. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

What makes it so addictive?

Its uniqueness. The exhilaration of finishing a stage - and then resting and getting up the next day to ride again is fantastic. The riding has also been fun – it’s tough but not so tough that it’s torture.

How did you prepare for the event?

I trained early in the morning so that my training wouldn’t eat into family time – but that also meant I wasn’t as acclimatised to riding in the heat, which I have struggled with.

What do fellow riders say to you when they encounter you in the field?

Occasionally I’m recognised by other riders, and it’s really humbling when – in broken English – a foreign rider will spontaneously thank me for this awesome experience. The great thing is that you soon settle down and ride with people of similar skill – and it’s satisfying not to have slower riders holding you up on the single track or faster riders in your ears.

Is there anything about not being a rider that you miss?

I miss not able to watch the racing at the front. The women’s race has become so competitive - and that was part of our strategic effort to build it. We want to see the South Africans doing well in both the men’s and women’s categories but it’s amazing to see these global mountain bike pros racing in our country. Half an hour before the winners came home I’d be at the finish line, waiting with all the fans and team managers. I loved the buzz and adrenaline on the finish line. I miss that action.

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Kevin Vermaak enjoying a well deserved break during stage 3 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 16th March 2016. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

What home comforts do you miss the most?

I don’t really miss any home comforts. I have opted to stay in a camper van – and I’m fortunate to have a soigneur, who was once with Team Specialised. He drives the van and gives us massages. I also have Christoph Sauser’s bike mechanic fixing my bike. I stayed in tents in the early years when I was part of the organisational team - we got minimal sleep and it was hard work. This time I thought the camper van would be the best way to experience the event.

So, in those early years did you have a desire to take part in the race?

Actually, not really. I loved creating, planning, improving and innovating and being part of a mountain bike race that was doing things no other race in the world was doing – that was such a thrill.

So, when did you decide that it was time – finally – to ride?

At last year’s race I realised that the event was running smoothly. I had people in place who were doing a great job. I’d employed a CEO - Lynn Naude, whose job was to raise the Epic’s game to even greater levels. I didn’t want to interfere so the only thing that I had left to experience was taking part in the race itself.

Will there be changes as a result of your experience?

I have come up with some cool ideas; some small details and tweaks that will add to the mix; the things that continue to make the race epic.

What has been the toughest part of the race so far?

Stage 3 was tough – it was longer and more taxing than I expected and the heat took a toll. When the team did the test ride in September it wasn’t so sandy, but the organisers can’t control the Western Cape climate. Although I would have preferred not to have ridden through the sand, it’s just one of those things.

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Cape Epic Founder Kevin Vermaak during stage 3 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 16th March 2016. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

And the best part?

Seeing my wife and two children at the start line. I’ll remember that moment for ever.

Which part of your body hurts the most?

I’m okay but after more than 400km of bumpy riding I’m not surprised that I have a sore arse.

When will you be back on your bike?

On Tuesday. We have a weekly Tuesday morning round-the-mountain ride - and it’s tradition for the pros to join us after the Epic. It’s a special ride and I’ll be there.

Team Finally arrived in Boschendal on Friday afternoon. They have so far ridden 499km in a time of 31:56.24 (avg speed 15.62km/h) with 11 700 metres of climbing. They are 46 in the competitive Masters category and 175 overall.