72-year-old Dutch roadie riding the Cape Pioneer Trek
11 April 2016
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Hello and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, all matters mountain biking of course. It’s that time of year in South Africa in summer months when stage races are all the rage, they’re all over the country.
It does bring riders from all over South Africa and indeed all over the world to see our beautiful country. This week I’m sitting alongside a gentleman who has come out to South Africa many times to take part in mountain bike stage races. He’s this week taking on the Cape Pioneer Trek, his name is Sef Queis, Sef, how many Cape Pioneer Treks have you done?
Sef Queis: This is my fifth.
GDK: Five Cape Pioneer Treks and the secret of Sef is that he’s in a category of his own. Sef, how old are you? He’s an age of 72 and you’re still doing this, remarkable. But mountain biking came to you quite late in a way?
SQ: I started mountain biking eight years ago, so that’s quite late.
GDK: You’re from the Netherlands?
GDK: Where about in the Netherlands?
SQ: I’m from the hilly part of Holland, nobody in South Africa believes that we have hills in Holland. I live in the middle of the hills.
GDK: You use those for training?
SQ: I use those for training, I live there.
GDK: Now, before mountain biking, you were competing in a lot of other events, what sorts of sports were you doing then?
Sports events have allowed me to see the world
SQ: My whole life was just sports, I’ve done everything. But the most beautiful thing was triathlon, the Ironman races, I did 17 full distance Ironman races and by one crash I stopped it.
GDK: Mountain biking, I suppose for you it’s an opportunity to see different parts of the world and that sort of thing?
SQ: For me it’s that, it’s the sport, with my wife, we saw the whole world, just by sport, by doing sport, Ironman and so on. Now I’m at the end of my career of sport we discovered South Africa and that was actually the most beautiful thing we could discover.
GDK: You first came out here for which race?
SQ: For the Cape Pioneer Trek and now this is the fifth. After that, I do every year two races in a year. We come always at this time of the year and then we come back in your summer.
GDK: What is it about the mountain biking that has captivated you because you’re more of a road rider, if I get it right?
SQ: Yes, it is perhaps a little bit strange to say, I don’t like mountain biking, but it’s just the way that you can do stage races and in Europe it’s almost impossible. In Europe, if you’re not a licensed rider, or a professional rider, you can’t do stage races. I like stage races, one day races are not interesting for me and therefore I choose for mountain biking just to suffer more!
GDK: What about training for these things because it is a very different discipline to do the mountain biking and do you do most of your training on the road?
SQ: Now I tell you, now it’s the Cape Pioneer, the last time before this, I started the Cape Pioneer, that I rode on a mountain bike was in April. I never ride a mountain bike.
GDK: We’re sitting here in the middle of October, so you haven’t ridden a mountain bike at all?
SQ: Not at all.
GDK: You said you’ve had crashes, is the technical side an area –
SQ: It’s just the technical side, I don’t have any technique at all, not at all. That causes you a lot of crashes, as easy as that.
GDK: And dare I say it, it costs you time, but I take it that time isn’t really an issue for you?
12 500km this year to date
SQ: Time is really not an issue for me, actually I’m still, at my age, a professional cyclist, I just cycle. To give you an idea, now we are middle of April, this year I did 12 500km on the bike, on the road bike almost everything.
GDK: 12 500km on the bike, that is a lot of riding. I take it you’re retired in business?
SQ: I was a teacher of physical education, so my whole life was sport, the whole life I was in the sport. I think that is the secret that I’m still doing this, that I was always working with young people and that keeps your mind young. But your body still knows that you’re 72.
GDK: When did you retire?
SQ: Seven years ago.
GDK: That’s been a window for you to get out and do this. You were still competing when you were teaching.
SQ: Of course, when I was teaching I did Ironman races and that was, for the students, that was not so nice if they had me as a teacher. We were three and I was a fanatic man, I used my lessons for training for Ironman, so for them it was very tough.
GDK: It must have been inspirational for the students as well.
SQ: Very funny, but you ask now. When I was teaching, they were always saying: You’re crazy, you don’t have to do it and so on. After that, when they were finished studying, I saw them running and cycling and they say: Sef, at those times we hated you, but you were right.
What else do you still want to do?
GDK: You’ve led them into things that perhaps they wouldn’t have done. So, 72, you have another Cape Pioneer, what more for you, what other goals do you have? You’ve done an Epic?
SQ: I did the Epic in 2013 and I think, last year I was still the oldest finisher ever. So I think I’m still the oldest finisher ever, so that means the Epic is not so difficult. I was 68 then.
GDK: Goals ahead for you?
SQ: Next year, South Africa, first the Tankwa trek, the three-days race of the dry land. Then 2-3 weeks later I do the Tour of Good Hope, the five-day road race.
GDK: Tankwa trek is very technical, a very hard race.
SQ: Yes, but the Tankwa trek is three-days and the most difficult stage I don’t do.
GDK: Let’s go to the Netherlands, a lot of Dutch riders here at Cape Pioneer. We know there’s a great history and tradition of cycling in the Netherlands, mostly on the road, mountain biking there?
SQ: It was, when the famous event, that mountain biking came up. But I think it is now going down, I think the mountain biking, high level, this level for example, it’s going down. For sure you can see, for example on the Olympics last year was just one rider, he didn’t even finish it.
GDK: He had a bad crash.
SQ: He has not the quality.
GDK: Events, mass participation events like we have here, we have hundreds of races every year, you don’t have them in the mountain bike, it’s more the cross country style?
SQ: You know, Belgium is cross country. Belgium is, I think, the most important sport of the year, even more important than road racing –
SQ: Cyclocross. But in Holland we have in Holland just two or three Cyclocros. One of that is one of the best in the world. In Holland it’s actually just road racing. But the problem is in Holland you can’t race if you don’t have a license. For example, here you can do, what I did, the Tour of Good Hope. Then I did the four days race in Nelspruit, that was the MTN, that, and that makes it great to come to South Africa. That even I can do those kinds of races. I’m still a racer!
GDK: You are a racer because you win your category every year, at the Cape Pioneer, but Sef, this is incredible. You’ve got a couple of goals next year, but your energy, your fitness and desire to carry on doing this sort of thing –
SQ: No, no, I go on and then I’m still very competitive. Here I don’t have a competitor in my age group, I’m still very competitive. Something that I said, was it the last. Today, I don’t be the last one, but one day I will be last one.
GDK: And you’ll accept it, but you enjoy it.
SQ: Of course, you have to accept it.
GDK: Sef, thanks very much for chatting, congratulations, you’re an inspiration, I must say, to everyone who sees this because you’re still doing it.
SQ: It was nice to talk with you.
GDK: Good luck for the rest of the race.
SQ: Thank you very much, I need it!
GDK: Sef Queis from the Netherlands, age of 72. An inspiration as he takes on the sport of cycling, the sport of mountain biking with such determination, despite the fact that maybe he isn’t technically proficient. He takes on challenging events like the Tankwa trek, like the Epic and Cape Pioneer. I think that’s an inspiration to everyone. You shouldn’t be limited by your perceived inadequacies, technically or physically, you should just take on the challenge and back yourself.
Wonderful chatting. I hope you enjoyed that chat with Sef Queis from the Netherlands. He’s yet another inspirational person we’ve met right here on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. If you enjoyed that, download once more and we’ll chat mountain biking once again. Until then, cheers.