South African cricket legends Gary Kirsten and Alan Dawson are in the Swiss Alps taking part in the Perskindol Swiss Epic. The pair have both completed the Absa Cape Epic, with Kirsten joining the Amabubesi Finisher Club earlier this year and Dawson having completed the race in 2010 and 2011. So they are no strangers to racing mountain bikes in rugged terrain, all the same the Perskindol Swiss Epic is proving a challenge of note.
“Typically my experience of mountain biking is not to worry where you’re going. Don’t have any preconceived ideas, just do the ride” Kirsten said after finishing Stage 2 of the race. “We knew we had 2 700 meters of climbing, that’s all. Where it was going to come was irrelevant” the former South African and Indian cricket teams’ coach said.
As a player Kirsten was famed for his gritty approach to opening the batting. That determination has served him well in the Perskindol Swiss Epic thus far; especially as he and former fast bowler Dawson were expecting far cooler weather. Having mentally prepared for cold conditions the hot Swiss summer has compounded the exhaustive effects of the marathon climbs.
“I reckon it got to thirty, thirty two, degrees Celsius; so very tough” Dawson, his cycling jersey caked in sweat, reflected. “I came prepared for the cold, so we got that one wrong” Kirsten added with a smile. “But every day you get a little bit stronger as your body gets used to the long time out there” the former opening batsman added.
After a good night’s rest; Kirsten and Dawson were looking and sounding a lot chirpier ahead of the Queen Stage on Thursday. Having already conquered 5 400 meters of climbing in the opening two days they, and the rest of the field had 2 850 meters of climbing to complete on Stage 3. “It’s amazing what the body can do to recover” Kirsten said, before turning his thoughts to what he and his partner have learnt thus far in the race. “We’re lapping it up, it’s a great place. We’re staying humble and enjoying the moments. We’re not here to win the race; we just want to enjoy the experience.”
“I think it teaches you to persevere. But I say that and you know every guy here has trained and done his bit. No one wants to stop. So I take my hat off to the guys who didn’t play sport professionally; they come out here, they put in the yards and they stick it out. Everyone is helping everyone at the back of the field. And everyone here are pretty good riders too! Compared to what we see in South Africa, technically people can handle themselves pretty well. So it’s been good for us. I’ve certainly improved in the last two days” he concluded.
If you are intrigued by Kirsten and Dawson’s Alpine Adventure you can follow their progress in real time, thanks to SPOT, on the Epic Series’ live tracking platform: www.epic-series.app/swissepic/tracking. As the Perskindol Swiss Epic nears its conclusion only two stages remain, with Stage 4’s 63 kilometre ride from Grächen to Zermatt providing a little relief from the most strenuous climbing – the route only includes a moderate, by Swiss standards, 2 250 meters of elevation gain.