A roadie & a surgeon – a match made on the trails
09 May 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Mountain Bike podcast. It’s Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking you have downloaded, thanks for downloading. This week we’re chatting about, I suppose team events and stage races. Because this week I’m at the Liberty Winelands Encounter mountain bike stage race, a three-day race that takes riders from Stellenbosch through to Franschhoek and ultimately Wellington and covers some of the best trails imaginable.
We’re going to focus on some of the riders and a team that today finished second overall. It’s an interesting combination because we’ve got a fulltime pro, ex-road pro, is he a fulltime pro, well, he can tell me and we’ve got a doctor riding alongside him. Hanco Kachelhoffer, he’s not the doctor. Describe yourself now in terms of cycling, where do you fit?
Hanco Kachelhoffer: I’m a roadie turned mountain biker. I’ve done it for the last three years and it’s really exciting. It’s the first time I’m at this race, so riding with Colin. It’s quite a nice event for us to do and the second place for us today was really a good result. We try to be on the podium, so we’re very happy with second place.
GDK: Just these trails today, they were phenomenal. It was only 51/52km day, but quite an extraordinary amount of those were single track.
Not just an other roadie turned Mountain biker
HK: I think this route compares to some of the best routes out there. 50km of absolute pleasure, lots of technical riding. There was a big crash in front of us, one of the guys came down, so you always have to look what you’re doing. It’s one of those stages that you’re actually going to remember and tell your friends to come and do in the future, so it’s an absolute pleasure.
GDK: I get the feeling that you’ve obviously taken to mountain biking. Obviously it’s an extra stream of work to you, to a degree, but it’s also something you really enjoy.
HK: I actually moved down to George for mountain biking, specifically for that reason, to improve my technical skills and stuff. I think it’s actually made a big difference. I used to stay in Jo’burg and the reason was, I moved there for road cycling. My team was based there, with Malcolm Lange a few years ago.
So, mountain biking really takes you out your comfort zone. I used to be a sprinter and the lead out guy, the final guy in front of the sprinter. So mountain biking taught me to, it’s all about, again, the team. So I love the team aspect of stage racing and also pushing yourself way beyond where you thought you can go.
I used to, when I was younger, growing up in Bloem, used to do lots of time trials. This compares to those years of sitting on the front and pacing. A lot of times you get into a zone where you’re blowing, but there’s 50km to go. So you just have to ride through it and get out of it.
That’s what mountain biking, to me, makes it quite exciting. It’s not just about sitting in a bunch and the fastest guy is going to win with the strongest team. You’re very exposed and it’s almost like running, in a sense. Where if the guys ride away, you can always come back. Even riding with Colin, he has such a big engine. He played rugby when he was younger.
I was a cyclist and I can see his drive and his motivation. He’s getting older now, so today we really had to struggle to try and stay with the younger cross country guys. But we came back and we actually finished strongly. That just shows you, if the guys start fast, we’re a little bit older now, we just plan our race different and we have a chance. We finished second, so.
Getting on a bit can be an advantage
GDK: I get the feeling there’s stage races and mountain biking, particularly, it does lend itself to the more mature rider. I’ll come to the old man with the grey beard next to you in a moment, but you’re sensing this could give you a fairly long career here?
HK: I think so, if you look at some of the riders like Sauser, he’s really old, much older now. He’s still at a very high level. A guy like Ben Melt Swanepoel who is one of the top South African riders and I think he’s 41 turning 42 this year. I think mountain biking almost adds another ten years to your career.
I did the Tour of Good Hope 2-3 weeks ago and I could really see the younger guys are just so much fresher and faster. It’s almost like sending young okes to the army, you just tell them what to do and they do it. The older guys, I’ll be honest, a guy like Nolan’s really fast still, but you can see he’s almost losing his nerve a little bit in the final sprints.
Where I think mountain biking, guys like Darren Lill, Waylon Woolcock, they’re 35 now and they’re just getting stronger and stronger. This year they won the African jersey at the Epic. So I think mountain biking brings a whole other aspect to it.
I think the older you get, you actually start appreciating, especially races like this, the longer stuff. Colin, he actually warms up after about 60km and his diesel engine kicks in. I really had to hold on the last 20km today. I think the older you get, the more experienced you are and the bigger your engine gets and the faster you actually finish the stage.
GDK: That’s apparently the young member of this combination. Hanco Kachelhoffer and alongside him is Colin Noel. Firstly, your real job, just describe what you do for a living.
Maximising training time as a working professional
Colin Noel: Currently I’m a surgical registrar in general surgery, so I’m two and a half years into specialising, based at Groote Schuur Hospital, so that’s my day time job. Then my night and early morning job is to try to get fit enough to hang onto these chaps.
GDK: Clearly something you’re doing pretty well. You do a lot of training, a lot of work, do you do a lot of it on the road or do you do most of it off road when you’re training?
CN: Fortunately, I specialised in sports medicine prior to this, prior to doing surgery. So my training strategies are very different to these guys. I have very little time, so I spend a lot of time with interval training and early mornings, I only get in probably two hours a day, maybe 2-3 times a week. So it’s very different to the normal training. Weekends I try to get out a bit more, but it’s very different to what the standard chap does, but it has to be because I just don’t get enough time.
GDK: It takes either a very brave, confident person, or a person who is the other way, to team up with a pro, what’s going on here?
CN: I think it’s the latter. It’s an absolute privilege and the nice thing now in mountain biking, a lot of the general public. Sort of your 30-40-year-old chap who is spending a lot of time at work is getting out to try and ride these kind of races and to compare yourself to the pros.
I’ve been absolutely blessed in being brought into this team and being able to just experience what it’s like. Hats off to them, they are incredibly strong. I think the only difference is that I somehow manage to go into the hurt box for probably a little bit longer than most people, but it’s a lot of hurt!
Trying to hold onto sponsorship
GDK: I’ll come back to you Colin, but Altech Autopage, your team Hanco, sponsors are hard to come by, particularly for teams and riders, you’re in a good space at the moment with that.
HK: It’s the third year Altech has been involved with the team. Unfortunately in January the company sold, we don’t have a sponsor for the next year. They honoured their part of the deal, still sponsoring us for the rest of the year, so we are actually looking for someone to replace it. I think the team has a really nice vibe and that’s why Altech has also decided to see us through for the last year.
We have so many guys involved with the team as well, NMB is another company, Pretoria Box is another company. So there’s always new guys looking for opportunities and looking to sponsor riders and doing events like this and getting the media exposure. But if you get a sponsor, obviously you want to really look after the guys, give back as much as possible.
We’ve been really fortunate to be involved with Altech. They’ve been absolutely phenomenal the last few years. I think a big drive with the team was as well. To get some of the, actually some of the corporates working for the company on bikes and having days with them.
Explaining how to ride and how to ride better and some of the guys did the Epic, Boyd and Thinus their CO and CFO actually finished their third Epic this year. They’re very proud to do that and be associated with the team. It’s been quite an inspiration for them, being involved with a pro team.
GDK: There are Pro-Ams in golf, but it’s a very different environment. It is extraordinary and probably unique the sport from that perspective, where you can get your CEO’s and someone riding with you guys in events.
HK: I think it actually offers quite a unique opportunity, if you have a riding day where there’s 40 guys, you definitely know you’ll end up riding with one of the pros. If you have a golf day, if you don’t pair up with the right guys, you’re not going to see them. They’ll have one drink afterwards and leave. Where on the bike, sometimes I’ve done stage races with Thinus and Boyd.
We’ve spent 5-6 hours a day chatting to each other and they’re riding together and it actually builds such a nice camaraderie. I think that’s what mountain biking, what makes it different. What the guys like about it, is actually being able to, like a joBerg2c, spending nine days with the guys. Seeing them every day, actually getting to know the pros, getting to know the normal guys that does 7-8 hours on the bike. We actually respect them more some of the pros only doing fivr hours on the bike.
GDK: Thank you! So much appreciated!
HK: I think cycling offers a lot.
GDK: Coming back to Colin, you were moonlighting, working at the ABSA Cape Epic this year. That’s obviously your sports medicine background, your cycling background is a great help there. But you were involved in a fairly serious incident there as well weren’t you?
CN: Ja, it was a nasty incident, it was in the 2015 Cape Epic and we were called to an incident where unfortunately the handle bars went through one of the riders and damaged one of the major arteries there. But the incredible thing about the Epic is their medical background and the facilities that we had. We had to operate, to a certain extent, in the field, which was a first for me.
We managed to stabilise him and the good news is that he was discharged and went back home. From my understanding, was the first recorded field operation of that type that’s ever survived. So that was something, probably a day I’d like to forget, but it turned out good.
GDK: You pick your partners well, don’t you Hanco, you’re in safe hands, clearly.
HK: I am in safe hands. Unfortunately, Colin doesn’t have his surgical kit with him when we race. He’s quite a Daredevil down some of the descents. So I always think, I just hope he doesn’t break a hand or something, he works with his hands a lot, so don’t let him fool you.
GDK: Hanco Kachelhoffer, Colin Noel, thank you very much Altech Autopage Cycling Team, they finished second on the stage here at the Liberty Cape Winelands Encounter. Great race it is and two great gentlemen talking to us about mountain biking, thank you very much. That’s been another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking, thanks for downloading, do so again. We’ll be talking more of this great sport of mountain biking, cheers.