Car rental agency Avis will, for the second year, sponsor Reuben van Niekerk, a talented amputee, and teammate Kevin Benkenstein for the world’s toughest mountain cycling race – the Cape Epic. Van Niekerk is taking on this massive challenge in 2018 to raise awareness for Jumping Kids, an organisation that provides customised prosthetics to children with lower limb amputations.
On March 9, ROLLING INSPIRATION sat down with Van Niekerk, Avis Budget South Africa CEO Rainer Gottschick and Michael Stevens, operations manager at Jumping Kids, to learn more.
Avis proud to sponsor Reuben van Niekerk
“Being involved in the Cape Epic is linked to one of our brand promises: we try harder. You have to try much harder to finish the Cape Epic than most things. Generally, cycling is linked to mobility,” said Gottschick, adding that mobility is key to Avis too.
He noted: “If you are mobile, you get to do things and it changes your life. That is how we got involved. For us it is a privilege to sponsor him. The Cape Epic is probably the toughest sporting event in South Africa.”
Cape Epic challenge
Van Niekerk agreed with Gottschick’s account of the Cape Epic. He explained: “It is definitely the most challenging among the multiple-day events. The Iron Man, for example, is a very tough challenge for a one-day event, but to go eight days in succession takes a special kind of crazy.”
Van Niekerk said that the team had trained hard and were excited about the event. The Cape Epic is one of the few no-category cycling events, as classified by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which allows amateur cyclists to compete with professionals such as cyclist Nino Schurter, who will also participate in the Cape Epic.
Van Niekerk noted: “It is at the same level as the Tour de France. It is one of the only races where an amateur can pay their money and race against world or Olympic champions. About 600 of the best teams are lining up for the Epic. Last year, we were in the top 400. I would really like to be in the top half of the field.”
Not for glory, but for the kids
Competing in the Cape Epic is not only about adventure or thrill. Van Niekerk would also like to share the message of what is possible with the right equipment. Children can live an inclusive life with the right assistive devices. Jumping Kids, for which Van Niekerk is an ambassador, also receives assistance from Avis.
Michael Stevens said: “Reuben is an ambassador for the children we fit with prosthetics as an inspiration of what is possible. We have one or two kids in the Cape, who I hope to get to the event.”
ROLLING INSPIRATION wishes Van Niekerk and his team the best of luck for the 2018 Cape Epic, which takes place from March 18 to March 25 in Cape Town. The cyclists will travel a total of 658 km, of which 13,5 km consists of mountain climbing.