Zulu, who as a racing car driver spends more time behind the wheel then on top of two wheels, smothered his baby daughter in kisses, held up his finisher’s medal and beamed. “Yah! Yah!” He and Mdlolo had played cat and mouse with the cut-off but had survived. Mdlolo turned to Zulu and embraced him. “This guy is a rock star,” he said. “A rock star.” And then he started to sob. “I owe him my life.”
The pair – riding for Absa Diepsloot MTB Academy – had conquered this year’s Epic in a time of 57:50.28 – more than double the winning Bulls’ time of 28:13.
“That really took eight days of courage – and then some – in fact, it was a whole year of courage,” said Zulu. “It’s a trip of note, it’s punishing but so rewarding. Riding with Maurice was an awesome experience - he is such a gentleman. He is kind and gracious – and even though he was in so much pain he could hardly speak, he would greet every single marshal on the course.” Zulu said every part of his body hurt but he really feels sorry for his bike - “I hurt it a lot”.
Mdlolo came second last in 2015’s Epic and said that even though he had upped his preparation for the event by 25% he was still found wanting. “Two days ago I was at my limit. I thought it was all over, and if it wasn’t for Gugu I wouldn’t have this finisher’s medal,” he said. “He pushed me when I didn’t have anything left – he motivated me to keep going even when every part of my body wanted to give up. He’s a rock star.”
Mdlolo said he was going to put his bike away for a long time and spend some time with his family.
Meanwhile, among the finishers on Sunday were four Last Lions – riders who have completed every edition of the race since it launched in 2004. Hannele Steyn, Craig Beech, Mike Nixon and John Gale lined up at the Prologue at Meerendal on 13 March … and all finished on Sunday.
They have finished every one of the 13 editions of the race. Now they are in a battle to be the last one standing – the Last Lion.
Steyn, who won the Women’s category in 2005, chose to race with a novice friend this year and ushered teammate Anneke Viljoen to a commendable 11th among the women teams and 368th overall. Team Nolands Spar Ladies completed the eight days of riding in 49:15.29.
Beech, riding as Team Beech with Louis Smith, finished 448th overall and 161st in the Masters category. They were out on the trails and tracks for 52:59.19.
Nixon, who has summited Mount Everest, rode with Shane Barker in team Land Rover 3 and finished in 45:03.53. They were 275th overall and 21st in the Grand Masters category.
Gale chose to ride with Pierre Everard as Team Fat Bob and they finished 214th overall and 62nd in the Masters. Their overall time was 42:28.
“These people epitomise the soul of the Absa Cape Epic,” said Marketing and Communications manager Sarah Haigh. “We are delighted for them and look forward to seeing all four on the start line again next year."