The Absa Cape Epic stage race, which starts in Cape Town, South Africa this weekend, will feature a very special person; former Formula One champion Alain Prost.
A keen cyclist and participant of many road cycling sportives, Prost will be tackling the gruelling stage race, which pits racers against an eight stage race and 781km of racing. His partner in the race will be international water ski champion Sebastien Di Pasqua.
A four-time Formula One Drivers’ Champion, Prost has won more titles than any driver except for Juan Manuel Fangio (five championships) and Michael Schumacher (seven championships). For a period of 14 years, from 1987 to 2001, he held the record for most Grand Prix victories.
“I do a lot of cycling on my road bike, and I was always looking to do the Absa Cape Epic,” says Prost. “I’m not a specialist on a mountain bike at all, but I want to live the experience. The fact that it takes place in South Africa helped me make the decision. I love riding and looking at beautiful scenery at the same time.”
His riding partner is well-known water ski champion, Sebastien Di Pasqua. Di Pasqua has achieved impressive results in the sport and is a two-time European record holder, a bronze medalist at the 2006 World Cup Final, a podium finisher in World Cups, Pro Tour stops, and European Championships, a three-time World Championship finalist, and 15-time national record holder. He has been in the top 10 and top three on the International Waterski Federation (IWSF) and European ranking lists for 10 years.
Says Di Pasqua: “Alain and I both love mountain biking, plus the challenge is amazing with a very difficult race, all this in a beautiful country, so we’re both very excited to come over. It will be the first time Alain and I compete together, but I’m confident that we’ll be a good team. We’re both ready to give our best!”
Prost reckons it is not going to be easy: “I think it’s going to be very difficult for me because my technique is poor. I see it as a challenge and a human experience. I’m very happy to be riding with Sebastien. He’s a great sportsman and a strong character. We have the same goal and that is to finish the Cape Epic and enjoy as much as possible.”
Di Pasqua adds: “Our goal is to get the best ranking possible, even though we know that wining will be very difficult. We want to also enjoy the competition.”
They train together at least twice a week. “My diet has been the same for a very long time and my weight has been constant for the past 30 years,” comments Prost. “At the moment, I’m just eating a bit more. My only problem is my back as I’ve had a disc problem for the last two years.”
Di Pasqua trains about 5 to 6 days a week. “I also follow a plan by renowned French nutritionist, Flore Echinard. Luckily I don’t really have any injuries, but we’re ready to hurt everywhere. As long as we stay in one piece, I guess we’ll be fine.”
Prost reckons he should not offer any advice. “I’ll try to get a lot of advice from other participants as soon as I get there. I think for me it’ll be about consistency and not trying to go too fast, as well as eat a lot and well.” His teammate feels the same. “I don’t have much advice to give as it’s our first time, but just enjoy the ride! You’ll need lots of determination and must be ready to suffer,” says Di Pasqua.
Prost says that he is looking forward to “the marvelous views, not too many technicals and not too dangerous sections along the route. Of course my experience with a road bike will help very little.” Di Pasqua wants to live a great life experience. “I don’t know if our previous and respective sport experience will help us in this challenge as we were both doing a completely different effort, but we’re both ready to bike hard and not give up. We’ll do our best and I hope that our past will help us when the going gets tough,” he says.
Prost has always enjoyed participating in sport in his free time, as well as going to the cinema and the arts. Di Pasqua loves snow skiing, mountain biking, paragliding, eating and spending time with friends.
Prost’s goal is to have a “good sport season without injuries.” He adds: “I still have a lot of projects and am involved in other things for the rest of the year. I hope I can enjoy both. I really love the idea of joining this wonderful race, even if we only decided to participate a month ago. I also realise that our preparation will be a bit short, but we want to live this human story at least once. Next year is the 10th edition of the race.” Di Pasqua says that “it all depends on the race. We’ll have to see”.
Prost concludes: “I have no idea who is racing in our category. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens during the race.” Di Pasqua adds: “A special thanks to the Absa Cape Epic for inviting and welcoming us.”