With an intimate knowledge of the Western Cape, former Proteas cricketer Gary Kirsten is relishing the chance to view the region from a different perspective when he takes part in the TransCape mountain bike race next year.
Starting in Knysna, the annual seven-day event presented by ASG Events will take riders on a 614km journey through some of the most iconic trails in South Africa, finishing in Franschhoek on February 10.
Having been based in Cape Town for much of his life, the 49-year-old Kirsten, who played 101 tests for SA, said he was familiar with the region due to “driving my car up the N2”.
“But now I will get a different view from the saddle of my bike and that’s very exciting for me,” he said. “I love the terrain of the Western Cape and there is so much more to explore.”
While cricket has been his life and remains his core business, Kirsten said he became interested in cycling four years ago.
“A friend asked me if I wanted to ride Wines2Whales with him in 2013 and that was my first event,” he said.
“The appeal for me is to ride mountain trails, which I do regularly during the week, but mostly on my own. I also like to constantly challenge myself.”
Known as a determined and gritty batsman who could occupy the crease for lengthy periods, Kirsten said he saw parallels between cycling and cricket.
“Mostly there is the endurance factor, because they both take a long time to complete. There is also an element of danger to both, which keeps one alert.”
He added that doing multi-stage races was high on his bucket list and he looked forward to adding the TransCape to his resume.
“I have done the Cape Epic, Wines2Whales and Tankwa Trek and love doing these sorts of races.”
He will be riding the TransCape alongside friend Roddy van Breda, managing director of adidas in SA. They will also compete in next year’s Cape Epic.
While he was a relatively experienced mountain biker, Kirsten said he still faced a number of challenges.
“One of them is getting mechanicals, which I am not very good at sorting out. Focusing on my nutrition is another,” he said.
Kirsten will join other high profile sportsmen such as ex-Springboks captain John Smit and rugby flyhalf Joel Stransky who have taken up cycling. Smit is also riding the TransCape next year.
He said they were trying to encourage ex-cricketers to take up cycling as an outlet for their energy.
“My good friend Alan Dawson (former Cape Cobras allrounder) is one of them. He has completed two Cape Epics and is one of the first ex-cricketers I have become aware of taking up the sport seriously.”
Former provincial cricketer Billy Stelling has also made his mark, winning the solo men’s title in this year’s TransCape in February.