Robert Hunter, the first South African to win a stage at the Tour de France, has finally taken up the challenge and is riding the Absa Cape Epic this year.

“I’m happy to be back on the bike and enjoying cycling as it’s an amazing sport, and I have to say thanks to the Absa Cape Epic organisers for knocking on my door every year to come and do the event,” he says.

Living legend

Hunter is one of the country’s best-known road cyclists. The first South African to compete in the Tour de France in 2001, he won stage 11 in the 2007 iteration of the famously gruelling continental race. It was just one of 16 grand tours he completed in the 15 years of his professional career before he retired in 2013.

Conceding that he’s not as fit now as he was then, Hunter notes that “the change from being a professional to normal life went possibly way too easy for me and I never really looked at my bike much. I kind of enjoyed the lazy mornings and no diets!”

Formidable pairing

For the Absa Cape Epic, Hunter will be pairing up with fellow former professional road racer René Haselbacher, who has three Epics under his belt, including a stage win in 2015. Team PTG/RH77 (a combination of Hunter’s sports-management agency ProTouchGlobal and Haselbacher’s cycling apparel company RH77) will be joining 649 teams on the eight-day, 624-kilometre race, which includes 16,650m of climbing.

Starting in Cape Town – with the integral prologue stage on Table Mountain, providing indications of who has prepared best for this colossal undertaking – the route will take riders to Hermanus, Elgin and Stellenbosch, with the grand finale at Val de Vie Estate, where fans can enjoy a fun-filled day marking the achievements of all the finishers of this gruelling event.