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Mannie ‘Mr African’ HEYMANS at 2014 Absa Cape Epic, stage 4

Absa Cape Epic on a fat bike
19 March 2014 By Red Bull ZA Team

Mannie Heymans is tackling the grueling MTB stage race on an unconventional 'fat bike'


Mannie ‘Mr African’ Heymans won the inaugural Cape Epic in 2004 with Karl Platt. It was but one of the highlights in a long pro road and MTB career that included three Olympics and various Commonwealth and All Africa Games showings. This year the elder statesman is back at the Absa Cape Epic and he’s gunning to become the first rider to complete this grueling MTB stage race on a fat bike.

So what exactly is a ‘fat bike’?
Siimply - a bike with fat tyres. I will be riding a 9:ZERO:7 carbon fat bike designed for riding in the snow in Alaska. ‘907’ is the dialing code for Alaska... The bike has no suspension so you fully rely on the suspension from the wide tyre surface. (The majority of Epic riders will be on full suspension machines). The theory goes: bigger wheels = more suspension = slower speeds. Or smaller wheels = less suspension = faster speed. Which is why I will run different tyre and rim configurations for different stages.


The tyres are the suspension

What motivated you to take on the Absa Cape Epic on the fatty?
I was approached by Hellmuth Weich to help raise funds for SUNheart Well I can’t win and didn’t really want to ride naked so this was my plan C. Looks like it is working! Lets hope the funds will be rolling in as well.

What sort of tyre pressures are you going to run?
Super soft at 0.5 and 0.7 bar. (Average pressures for ‘regular’ bikes will be between 1.8 and 2.0 bar)

Are those tyres tubed or tubeless and what’s the situation with spares?
Weight is a bit of an issue. A tube is 400g, for two that’s 800g plus a spare or two, so I will be riding tubeless. Believe me I will need more than just one Co2 cartridge to fill the wheel if I puncture!

You won the very first Epic and had a very successful racing career for many years. Are you racing this Epic?
2004 was the first one – a memorable time to think I was part of this from the beginning racing with Karl Platt. I started my own business two years ago and now there isn’t even time to train to do it for fun, so I definitely won’t be ‘racing’. I get questioned every day if I will finish the Epic on the fat bike so let me make that my goal.

How many Epics have you done?
I missed only 2013, because I had just opened my new shop. So maybe the organizer can give my two medals if I managed to finish with a wheel that has a track three times that of a normal MTB. Ha!

So you reckon fat-biking is the next big thing?
I have that funny feeling, yes. Maybe we see a stage race in the Namib desert soon…


The next 'big' thing?

How long have you been on this bike?
Maybe I shouldn’t answer this. Might just make me realise what I’m planning to do here. The good thing is it also has two wheels and I know what to do with that.

The Absa Cape Epic starts on Sunday 23 March with a prologue at Meerendal...
 

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I’ve done the Sea Otter Classic Cat2 XC race two years in a row (2012, 2013) on my 9:zero:7 fatbike. First time around in 2012 was running a 32/22 x 17 “dinglespeed” (shop was still building the rear wheel for cassette use) where I placed 30th out of 68 entries, and in 2013 things were a bit faster with a full cassette – I finished 15th out of 44 after having gotten to the starting line 2 minutes after my group had started. :eek: The Sea Otter XC course was better suited to a “normal” bike, in my opinion, but due to the influx of Cat2 sandbaggers I’d been treating it as more of a “fun run” sort of race where I knew I’d not be 14 minutes quicker than everyone else (the first and second place sandbagger finishers), and so I purposely handicapped myself with the Surly Large Marge DH rims (heaviest available) and a bike weighing in at 39 pounds. I’m confident that a fatbike will do just fine in a race such as the Cape Epic, however.
 
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