Letshego Zulu On Riding The Cape Epic In Memory Of Late Husband Gugu
The last (and first) time Letshego Zulu did The ABSA Cape Epic, it was the same year that her now-deceased husband, the legendary Gugu Zulu completed his race (they were riding in separate teams) and then proposed to her as she crossed the finish line. It was a momentous occasion and got all of us WH gals misty eyed! Gugu then went on to ride his fourth Cape Epic in 2016 and a few months later died tragically while on an expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro with Letshego.
She returned to ride this year’s event with Gugu’s previous riding partner, Maurice Mdlolo, for Team Land Rover, under Gugu’s previous race number, 411. And they nailed it!
I first met Maurice while doing my first Attakwas Extreme mountain bike race in January – Letshego had to pull out, unfortunately, because she was sick. Maurice stood out because he’s super tall, with the friendliest booming laugh that echoes through the valleys. For many riders wanting to attempt The Cape Epic (arguably the hardest mountain biking race on the continent), the Attakwas Extreme and the Tankwa Trek are benchmarks to gauge your ability – and potential success rate at being able to complete The Epic.
I rode with Letshego and Maurice for much of the way at Tankwa Trek. Constantly laughing and encouraging each other, they create a great vibe. And Letshego – I called her “sand snake”, because she can spin through any dune-like surface – is a machine.
It takes a lot of commitment and training to prepare for a race like this and Letshego managed to do it while being a single mom, biokineticist and co-founder of PopUpGym! #Inspiration
So, I caught up with her after the finish and she shared some noteworthy tips for race-day success:
Most Valuable Lesson Learnt About Team Riding?
“That a partner is there to both push you to ride better and to also pull you out of a rut when you’re physically broken and struggling during a ride. It’s important to find a partner that you get along with, especially in good and bad times.”
Thoughts Before A Scary Technical Section?
“I say to myself: ‘Your bike is built to ride this terrain so Go For It Girl!!'”
Biggest Epic Fear And How You Overcame It?
“Potentially falling and hurting myself. Thank goodness I kept the rubber side down and didn’t have any falls. I was also worried about getting sick with a stomach bug, which is very common at these events. I sanitised my hands often and stayed away from handshakes. Fist pumps save lives at these events.”
How Do You Keep Your Skin Glowy With The Mud/Dust/Sunblock?
“I use face masks quite often to cleanse and detox my skin, plus a facial every six to eight weeks. So far it’s working for me.”
Top 3 Off-Bike Training Moves?
“Burpees, push-ups and jump squats.”
READ MORE: Next-Level Burpees You Have To Try
What Fitness Tracker Do You Use?
And Your Race-Day Nutrition?
“For breakfast, I eat oats and banana plus one slice of toast with one boiled egg. Then, 30 minutes pre-race, a pre-workout sports drink. During the race I sip on a Marathon Fuel Sports Drink and water every 15 to 20 minutes and have a Race Food Bar every 45 minutes, plus boiled potatoes, biltong and banana bread at water points. Post-race, I have a whey-protein recovery drink.”
It might sound like a lot, but you need to fuel your body during these endurance events and be conscious of your hydration levels – not just for the day, but for the days to come.
Do You Stretch Or Go For Massages?
“I go for massages after each stage and use Zero Ache from Annique – I call it Deep Heat on steroids!”