Mike Horn for 2019 Absa Cape Epic
Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper dubbed South African Mike Horn “the world’s greatest living man”. He is widely held to be the world’s foremost modern day explorer and, as a journalist quipped, “he’s had more adventures than you’ve had hot dinners”.
Those adventures include an unassisted round-the-world trip along the equator with no motorised transport, a trip by foot to the North Pole in the dark, a solo circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle, scaling four of the world’s 8,000-metre plus mountains and more. Right now he is busy tackling his Pole2Pole Expedition, a two-year circumnavigation of the globe via the two poles. Again he is doing it unsupported, and with no motorised transport.
But in March 2019 the 51-year-old will be taking on an entirely different challenge: South Africa’s premier Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race.
Mike’s partner in the two-person team format event will be his brother Martin, who runs his own sports management company in Switzerland and lists paragliding, rock climbing and ski touring among his hobbies.
So what inspired Mike to take on the Untamed African MTB Race? “If John Smit can finish, I can too,” he laughs.
Martin adds that it is about “the love of mountain biking and the challenge it presents”.
Mike is “not a big racer at all … no time for that”. He did, however cycle across Africa as part of his trip around the equator.
Martin, 46, has been mountain biking for many years, “especially since moving to Switzerland in 1996”. He adds that “the Swiss Alps is my playground” but he does not have much race experience. Martin says he has heard that the Absa Cape Epic is a “tough bugger … they say the toughest MTB stage race on the planet”.
Mike adds that he has heard it is well-organised and that it “separates the boys from the men”. The renowned explorer laughs and says he hopes not to “bite off more than I can chew” during the event “but will take it as it comes, day by day”. His ambitions for the event are “to have a good time with my brother and enjoy the challenges it has to offer”.
Besides being an explorer, Horn – who now lives in Château d'Oex, Switzerland – is a renowned television personality in the French-speaking world (in much the same way as Bear Grylls is in the United States). He presents a show called À L'État Sauvage in which he takes celebrities on adventures in exotic parts of the world.
He is also in demand by sports teams for his motivational abilities. Coach Gary Kirsten, a fellow South African, used him to help fire up the Indian cricket team on its way to the 2011 World Cup triumph and he has worked with the South African national cricket team, the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and the German national football team.
He says his explorations have taught him about “discipline and mental strength,” which he hopes will help him on the Absa Cape Epic.
And once he has finished the event he will be off to the North Pole and on to his skis to complete the Pole2Pole Expedition.
The Absa Cape Epic is the world’s premier mountain bike stage race. The route changes every year, leading aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through roughly 700km of unspoilt scenery and 15 000m of accumulated climbing, over some of the most magnificent mountain passes in Western Cape in South Africa. The Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world and the only eight-day mountain bike stage race classed as hors catégorie by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). This official UCI status makes it a highlight on the professional racer's calendar. The Absa Cape Epic also attracts aspiring amateur riders wanting to test themselves against the best. It is a full-service race, meaning that everything is taken care of from the start - all riders need to think about is riding.
In 2016 the Cape Epic PTY (ltd) was acquired by the IRONMAN group, part of the Wanda Sport holding company. In terms of IRONMAN’s strategy, the Cape Epic will be the pinnacle event of a world series in which stage races around the globe offer qualifying slots for the South African race.