Who are the last lions of Cape Epic?

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Hannele Steyn has walked through every stage, of every Cape Epic. (Photo: R24)

Next week, the 17th edition of Absa Cape Epic will finally start after three false starts due to the pandemic.

Only four riders completed each stage of each Cape Epic. These riders have earned their place in mountain biking folklore and are known as the Last Lions. This year, two of those drivers, businessman and adventurer Mike Nixon and the latest lioness Hannele Steyn, will team up in Land Rover colors as they aim for 17th place.

Ride24 sat down with the couple to discuss about 16 years of riding the Cape Epic and back on the trails. Mike first.

With multiple postponements, how do you feel about riding the Cape Epic in October?

We’ve been ready for 18 months, have had three false starts and are happy that it looks like the event is continuing.

With only 250 teams and no supporters, there will be fewer people on the road, so the event will definitely have a different feel.

The only downside is that there was no event leading up to the epic, which is useful for simulating how you will feel during the event.

Do you think being one of the last Lions made you come back to the Cape Epic?

Being a part of the Last Lions group is definitely a motivator as there is nowhere to hide with this group.

Tell us about your riding partner?

I have had a few riding partners over the past 16 years, but this is the first time that two of the last lions have been riding together. Hannele is like a Duracell bunny, always positive. We train together when I’m in Cape Town and she’s engaged.

We’re very different riders, she’s so adorable, and she’s raced, won Epic and World Championships, but now she’s happy to ride at my pace.

Altogether we did 32 Epics so I think riding together gives us a big advantage. There is nothing Epic can throw at us that we haven’t experienced before.

Thinking back to the last 16 events, what stands out as a highlight?

We love to chat nostalgically over a post-race coffee about the good old days of racing on 26 inch RIBs, with less preparation and training. Just enthusiastic amateurism.

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