Cycle Lab Toyota’s Ben and Daniel impress at first Cape Epic

    Ben Mwanje (right) and Daniel Alikisente of Team Cycle Lab Toyota, pictured here after winning the Bridgestone Route 69 stage race, completed their first ABSA Cape Epic on Sunday. Photo: Action Photo

    Ben Mwanje and Daniel Alikisente of Team Cycle Lab Toyota completed their first ABSA Cape Epic on Sunday. They were the first black African team to finish the race, but due to their age (older than 26) and nationality (they’re Ugandan), they did not qualify for classification in the new Exxaro Development Team competition.

    Racing for the JAG Foundation, a charity initiative that uses sport to improve the lives of children from underprivileged South African communities, Mwanje and Alikisente finished the eight-day race in 57th position overall and 43rd in the Men’s category in a total time 41 hours 42 minutes 13 seconds.

    Interestingly, the pair’s best stage finish was on the rainy, muddy Stage 5, where they finished 37th in the Men and 49th overall.

    “That was actually our hardest day,” explained Mwanje. “It was so cold and we just wanted to get to the finish to get warm. A lot of other people had problems that day, but we just kept going. I think that’s why we had a higher finish than normal. It was very uncomfortable.”

    The pair had to deal with a cut tyre on Stages 4 and 6, but they were able to make the necessary repairs and minimise time loss. But on the final stage Mwanje’s rear derailleur shifter jammed shortly after the start, forcing him to complete virtually the entire stage with only his front gearshift options.

    “It was quite tough to ride with just couple of gears, but we had no choice. We had to finish and when we did finish it was an amazing feeling. It was a very tough race, but very, very nice to finish,” smiled Mwanje.

    “We would like to go back and do this race again. We now know what is needed and we can prepare properly. Mostly it is our training where we can improve, our equipment was good. Thank you to GT for the bicycles and to Cycle Lab Toyota club for all the back up and support before and after the race.”

    The pair has no intention of slowing down now. They’re using this week for recovery and will be back in race mode again soon.

    “Now we have a very good base. We will do some speed work and hope to be strong and faster at the next race, which will seem quite short after riding the Epic!” said Alikisente.

    “For Ben and Daniel to finish in the top 10% of the race (604 teams started the event) on their first attempt is quite impressive,” said Cycle Lab Toyota Club’s Andrew McLean. “They both work full time at our Cycle Lab Fourways branch and don’t have the same privileges as most of the riders in the Cape Epic do. It shows great commitment and appreciation from them.”

    Mwanje and Alikisente’s 2012 ABSA Cape Epic race progress:
    Prologue: 63rd Men, 80th Overall
    Stage 1: 52nd Men, 71st Overall
    Stage 2: 66th Men, 89th Overall
    Stage 3: 58th Men, 82nd Overall
    Stage 4: 56th Men, 74th Overall
    Stage 5: 37th Men, 49th Overall
    Stage 6: 63rd Men, 82nd Overall
    Stage 7: 67th Men, 89th Overall
    Final: 43rd Men, 57th Overall