Thursday, 26 March 2015

In a Rush with Gavin Memper

Gavin Memper is a professional chef with a difference. Having developed his craft in such far flung destinations as the French Alps, Kenya and New Zealand, Gavin now divides his time between private catering and developing the RUSHBAR.

Working at the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic as chef for Team Topeak-Ergon, the multi-talented Memper’s own passion for preparing healthy meals consisting of whole foods sparked his desire to develop an energy bar of natural ingredients. Enter the RUSHBAR, a product consisting of such Superfoods as Spirulina, Quinoa and Chia Seeds, to name but a few.

Not a fan of refined sugar coating, Memper reveals that finding a manufacturer was difficult, eventually striking a homerun with a factory in Cape Town. Given that the RUSHBAR was originally developed and wrapped in his own kitchen, retaining the home-based recipe and natural contents is critical to Memper, thus ensuring an authentic and healthy product.

Now available in Dischem stores, RUSHBAR’s product range includes Training, Endurance, Pregnancy, Monkey and Berry Burst options.

The Balanced Alice Pirard

Compromise, Cycling and chasing UCI Points

Whilst the sharp end of the ABSA Cape Epic consists mainly of full-time professional riders, there are a few exceptions.

Alice Pirard is one such example. Hailing from the Wallonia region of Belgian, Pirard divides her time between World Cup MTB competition and her civilian profession of osteopathy. Having first entered local consciousness at the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, Pirard returned to South African shores this year as part of the Team Meerendal setup. Paired with the legendary Esther Suss, the Belgian-Suisse combination completed the eight-day trek in a respectable fifth place overall, in a race dominated by the Team RECM duo of Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad.

As her professional qualification suggests, there is more to Pirard than just cycling. In fact, the articulate Belgian reckons that having a career outside of the sport is beneficial to her results, providing her with an optimal academic and sporting balance.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Caring Rudy Bergmans

Of Connection, Rapport and Classic Massage

Rudy Bergmans has seen it all.

A professional soigneur since 1965, the well-travelled Dutchman is a veritable encyclopedia of all things cycling. Having worked with cyclists spanning multiple generations and on such super-teams as PDM, Bergman’s knowledge of the sport and rider-care is perhaps unrivalled, especially given the progression of equipment, training techniques and even management structure over time.

Having cared for the likes of Bernard Thevenet, Sean Kelly and Raul Alcala, Bergmans has worked with Dutch mountain biking legend Bart Brentjens since the early 2000s. A regular visitor to South Africa since the inception of this partnership, Bergmans was back in the Western Cape recently for the ABSA Cape Epic. Accompanying Brentjens and a large contingent of Dutch riders for the eight-day trek around the Western Cape, his job entailed taking specific care of the Atlanta gold medallist and teammate Abraao Azevedo in their quest for the prestigious and highly competitive Masters title.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Rolling Recovery

Of morale, headphones and Metallica

It is a windy Monday afternoon at Oak Valley Wine Estate in South Africa’s Western Cape. With the first stage of the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic having concluded a few hours earlier, Rudi Van Houts is still cycling, albeit on a stationary roller in the back of a truck.

Having finished third on the 113km leg with Multivan Merida teammate Jose Hermida, the amiable Dutch rider is spinning his legs for around half an hour. This is an active form of recovery and part of a greater rejuvenation process that began as soon as Van Houts crossed the finish line.

“It is sometimes hard to do but is really just an extension of the recovery process,” says Van Houts. “As the race gets longer, I might give the rollers a miss on the odd day but it is definitely a beneficial tool in performance enhancement.”

The Versatile Erben Wennemars

For the Love of Sport

Erben Wennemars loves sport. He also likes to have a good time participating in whatever challenge he sets himself and the past week is certainly no exception.

As a first time participant in the gruelling ABSA Cape Epic, Wennemars and teammate Rob Harmeling have traversed some of the toughest mountain biking terrain that South Africa has to offer. Combined with extreme weather conditions, the former Olympic speed-skater spirits were high throughout the eight day trek around the Western Cape. Part of a large contingent of Dutch riders spearheaded by mountain biking legend Bart Brentjens, Wennemars and former Tour de France stage winner Harmeling crossed the finish line at Meerendal Wine Estate in a highly respectable 65th position overall.

Given that Wennemar’s elite sporting background is that of a sprint specialist, it is fascinating that someone with a fast-twitch muscularity can excel at endurance events. In a sporting world that is becoming increasingly specialised, the Dalfsen native’s sheer versatility is the exception to the rule stating that long distance events are not suited for those whose athletic talents lie over short bursts.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


Straying Off the Charts

Everything in moderation, they say.

If there was a prize for the most used - or over-used - phrase in life, odds are that the above three words would would be up there for first place. While I suspect that interpretations can and do vary from person to person, it almost seems that the “moderation-preach” can be a cop out, an excuse for mediocrity if you like.

In sporting terms, moderation can, for the most part, be the backbone of a sensible and balanced approach to fitness. Consistency and conservativity do go a long way as far as longevity goes, but sometimes a little irrationality can be of huge benefit.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Lifestyle Check

Stepping Back - Moving Forward

A recent story regarding South Africa’s Sunshine Tour captured my attention.

Wallie Coetsee is a journeyman pro golfer. Having entered the paid ranks way back in 1992, Coetsee has ploughed his trade in the nether regions of the sport, carving out a sustainable career over the course of the past two decades. With only a couple of victories to his credit, the forty-three year-old Coetsee was leading the recent Joburg Open up until the penultimate day, creating a stir amongst the media over the sudden appearance of this dark horse on the local professional circuit.

Journeyman professionals are commonplace in most sports. Whether mainstream (golf, tennis, rugby etc) or fringe (triathlon, cycling, surfing et al), these guys and girls are the backbone of the paid ranks, albeit away from the spotlight. Using professional cycling as an example, there are many domestic-based riders in France, Italy and Belgium whose earning power and quality of life in the lower division far exceeds that of pursuing a career at World Tour level. A bigger fish in a smaller pond has its benefits, depending upon personal career aspirations of course. Life is all about choices, but I digress.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Instinct Acquisition

Of Chunking and Automation

I starting reading a most interesting and intriguing book today. Only a chapter in and I’m already inspired to write about it.

David Epstein’s excellent The Sports Gene delves into what the mystery of elite sports, that is: what is it that makes top performers better than the rest?

The opening chapter has some great analogies, two of which are the notions of “chunking” and “automation.” In short, chunking is the instinctive ability of an athlete to perceive competitor’s body language and anticipate the outcome thereof. Automation refers to the sports-specific skills that are seemingly natural, almost hardwired into the athlete’s psychological make-up.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Pursuing the Ideal: Epilogue


As promised in my previous post, here is an expansion of the final three factors I'm trying to optimise in 2015.

This time one year ago, my road racing fitness was close to lifetime best. My 10km running times were fast, with three consecutive races yielded a thirty-odd second improvement on each outing. I was “flying” by my own standards, happily ensconced in that magical bubble of peak athletic performance.

Whilst these respective performances most certainly indicated an exceptionally high level of fitness, a nagging sense of doubt and worry existing in the back of my mind amid the seemingly effortless flow of great competitive outings. In short, a little voice was telling me that my race fitness was perhaps being pursued at the expense of my greater health, more specifically a nagging pain at the back of left heel. My mornings would involve awaking to daily tightness in my left foot, hobbling giving way to limping and finally – when warmed up – to walking and daily running, albeit always with chronic tightness and inflammation.