John Gale (45), one of only nine riders to have participated in all the Absa Cape Epics to date, will return for his 10th event from 17 to 24 March this year. He has taken part in four Old Mutual Two Ocean Marathons and finished numerous mountain bike races such as to Hell and Back, Sani2C, Wine2Whales, Rhodes Mountain Bike Marathon as well as the Knysna Mountain Bike race.
Gale and seasoned cyclists from all over the world will complete the legendary eight day mountain bike adventure of 698km with 15 650m of climbing from Citrusdal to Lourensford Wine Estate.
Gale, who started mountain biking in 1997, is a Chartered Accountant. He reckons his biggest achievement off the bike is that he has "the great and inexplicable good fortune to be married to Dr Beth Harley". In terms of family life and commitments, Gale adds: "Nothing would be possible without the support of Beth. And next to raising her children, Cape Epic training is a doddle."
His diet is managed by his wife. He says that if it were up to him he would "ride all day like John Denver, but the Lord and his wife wouldn't take it very well. I work when I should and cycle when it's possible, and do enough riding to be able to survive the Absa Cape Epic".
When asked the question why he comes back every year, he describes it as "I have the tiger by the tail, like Baloo; he has to come back to feel that the other end has teeth". The Absa Cape Epic has given him the privilege of riding alongside 3 incredible men, who have become close friends by sharing this incredible experience. The ultimate highlight of all his Cape Epic adventures has been the 2003 edition. "On the first day, after 80 km the route marshals needed policemen to keep us riding, at 100 kms they needed the army," says Gale. He adds that his 'superpower' on a mountain bike would have to be his endurance.
"In the first year we knew nothing and were completely unprepared. In the second year I'd forgotten all about what happened in the first one. ITB (Iliotibial Band) syndrome forced me to stretch and walk at 20-minute intervals. The first two events definitely stand out in my memory". Despite the tough times, Gale still enjoys a good laugh: "There's nothing quite like the sound of two dozen porta-loos being used after breakfast. The sound of all those prayer wheels clamping, and the incongruity of the association still makes me laugh."
The best part of the Absa Cape Epic for Gale is the riding. "The route is always sublime, and a tour through the Western Cape is without equal."
His riding partners over the last nine years have included Jakes Jacobsen, Riaan Meintjies and George Evans. He has competed in many events with each one of them. This year he will be riding with George Evans once more.
The most important ingredient for him to be able to finish is luck. "A whole year of luck in training, and being lucky enough with health, work and personal life to be at the start line. Eight consecutive days of luck on the bike. Not picking up an injury, not dehydrating, not getting sunstroke, and not breaking the bike! It needs a lot of luck. Each year the field is stronger, faster, better equipped and better prepared. I'm an advice taker more than an advice giver," says Gale.
When asked whether he finds the first or last stages more difficult, Gale responds: "The first stage. After 8 days of training I'm ready for the latter stages. In the early years I was elated to cross the finish line, but increasingly I feel an incredible disappointment that the adventure has come to an end."