epic feature

Wrenching through the Absa Cape Epic 

A mechanic's tale

I want to thank the whole team who work so hard everyday here,” said Simon Stiebjahn of Team BULLS 2 after claiming his first stage win in eight years of racing the Absa Cape Epic.

Stiebjahn and partner Martin Frey may have been the ones who crossed the line and got all the praise on Stage 6, but much like a Formula 1 team, the victory belongs to the entire team. An integral part of that team is Head Mechanic Tobias Aplas.

Like Stiebjahn, Aplas has also been at the Absa Cape Epic with Team BULLS for eight years. “There is a lot of pressure,” says Aplas, of what the day-to-day of a pro-team mechanic on The Race That Measures All is like. “Most of the pressure we put on ourselves,” he says. “This is the most important race of the year for us, so you want to make sure the bike is going as fast and smooth as possible for the riders.”

Exactly what would Aplas and co. do to prepare the team’s bikes for the Grand Finale into Val de Vie after a stage featuring as much water and mud as the post-deluge Stage 6?

“You must more-or-less have to strip the entire bike and build it back up from the bottom,” he says. “There is no way to get it rolling 100% again without that.” Aplas and Udo Jüterbock, the other Team BULLS mechanic, each work on specific riders’ bikes all week. With Karl Platt and Alban Lakata having unfortunately been forced to withdraw earlier in the week that means two bikes each. “It takes around three hours per bike on a ‘normal’ stage, but today will be longer,” says Aplas explaining how they have a meticulously planned out system throughout the week. “It is all about efficiency. “One day we will do a shock service, the next day a frame service, then again the shock, then change the tyres on another particular day. It is all very carefully planned.”

This is the most important race of the year for us, so you want to make sure the bike is going as fast and smooth as possible for the riders

To prepare for what was to come on Stage 5 and Stage 6’s muddy mess, they also replaced the brake pads.

For the latter part of this year’s race, Team BULLS have been staying in accommodation rather than the mobile homes (which they did early in the week and in the past). This has had some advantages and disadvantages for Aplas.

“There was no need to build up the service tents and rig them for rain and wind,” he said. “Having a solid roof over our heads yesterday was perfect.”

“I miss the race village vibe though,” he adds. “The vibe is an integral part of the race for us... Good banter among the other teams and mechanics. We’re all good friends - mountain bike racing is a big family, we’re already planning and looking forward to next year’s race”

A final piece of advice from BULLS soigneur and manager, Vincent Durand, “Take care of your bike and it’ll take care of you.”.