Image above by Miles Hoppe

In an exclusive interview, pro rider Manuel Fumic, tells Men’s Health about what it takes to tackle an event such as the Absa Cape Epic, billed as the most gruelling MTB race on the planet.

We spoke to Fumic during the third stage of the Absa Cape Epic where he was leading by one minute and 20 seconds. Fumic and his partner, Henrique Avancini, went on to finish fifth overall for Team Cannondale Factory Racing XC. Cross Country Olympic and World champion Nino Schurter and teammate Matthias Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) claimed the win overall.

During the third stage, Fumic stated that he felt good and well-prepared for the race this year. “ I am feeling better than ever before. When you get older you are more experienced and know what your body needs.”

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Photo credit: Miles Hoppe

The 34-year-old from Germany was first roped into mountain biking by his older brother, Lado, who used to race at a high-level of cycling. Since then, Fumic has never looked back and has achieved top results at the Olympics and World Championships.

“Cycling is my life and I travel a lot for it. I enjoy meeting new people and immersing myself in new cultures. I have learnt life skills through this. I love seeing younger kids in the sport, and motivating them for their future.”
Fumic explains how he has a natural motivation to get up in the morning and go and train. “Through cycling, I have learnt the art of discipline, commitment and self-motivation. I try to apply these lessons to all aspects of my life.” On the days that he feels particularly lazy, his wife and kids gets him off the couch to go and cycle. “My kids, Hugo (5) and Coco (2.5), keep me busy and motivated when I am at home!”

Fumic also emphasises how important your gear for a race is. “I only ride with my Oakley– Radar EV. They are absolutely necessary in bad weather conditions and for when I need to protect my eyes from the sun. You are going very fast on the trails and if you can’t see anything due to bad eyewear, you can’t stay focused and perform.” He also loves his Oakley Jawbreakers, which he uses to wear with casual wear. I also have the right set-up with Cannondale.”

Fumic’s advice to beginner riders is to start off small and build up from there. “It is possible for a beginner rider to aim to complete the Absa Cape Epic, but it is about the approach and how you go into it. If you come here and perform on a level like this, it can destroy your intentions of doing the sport as it can break your spirit. My advice would be to start with the easier, local races. There are so many beautiful ones in South Africa over the weekends- this is the right way to start.”

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Photo credit: Miles Hoppe

If you are looking to complete a race like the Absa Cape Epic, Fumic urges beginners to build up your fitness slowly over a certain period of time. You cannot rush the training for a race as intense as the Cape Epic. “You have to have the base to last for three to six hours of intense riding, so to do this you have to be able to deal on a technical level and deal with conditions such as the heat. To get your fitness up, other training helps too. I do gym and conditioning at gym, as well as swimming. Also make sure that you eat in moderation and follow a balanced, healthy diet.”

Fumic says that he is more worried about how he performs than whether he finishes victorious. “I am doing what I love. I just want to be happy with my performance. I don’t need to win.”

The Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world and the only eight-day mountain bike stage race classed as hors catégorie by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). This official UCI status makes it a highlight on the professional racer’s calendar. The Absa Cape Epic also attracts aspiring amateur riders wanting to test themselves against the best.

Has Fumic convinced you to enter? Entries for the 2018 event open at 3pm today (27 March 2017).