Gavin Wille and his riding partner, Craig Wylie, have known each other for 40 years. But two years ago when their adventure, at that stage still unknowingly, to become Epic Series Legends began few of their friends would have guessed what they were capable of overcoming.
“My cycling partner Craig and I have known each other for the better part of 40 years! He is my older brother’s best mate and they have been dirt biking and taking part in challenges together forever! After my brother refused the opportunity for the Absa Cape Epic, Craig convinced me. I knew that this race would be the challenge of a lifetime especially as I was very chubby at that stage!
Our introduction to the Absa Cape Epic, the first race we did as a team together in 2017, was a baptism by fire. Whenever I discussed the race with friends prior to the event, there was a bit of a double take, looking me up and down and they would say ‘I knew someone who did that once… that was by far the toughest thing they have ever done!’ Well it never disappointed and we got instant hero status from those in the know directly following the race; due to its enormous global profile. The dry, hot, dusty days splattered with never-ending ups and downs and sandy tracks were killers! Craig and I quickly realised the importance of having each other’s back. Very rarely did we peak together. There was always one of us digging deep to survive the day with the other in support. A lasting memory was that of a guy who absolutely pushed his teammate to his limit in the 40 degree heat. His ambition was obviously a better position in the overall classification. His teammate ended on a drip and never started the next day so the chap had to cycled alone for the next 6 days!”
“I had done the 4 day Pioneer in 2017 on my own as a preparation ride for the Absa Cape Epic and absolutely loved it. The whole feeling around The Pioneer was addictive. I made some good mates and had an absolute blast from Day 1. I never found the 4 day too challenging so at the end of 2018 Craig and I teamed up for another adventure to do the full Pioneer team race. We dusted off the same old bikes and kit from the 2017 Cape Epic! I had taken a relaxed attitude to training for the race and totally paid for it, suffering in the hills! Once again we stuck to the same supportive structure of getting through the challenges one at a time. The scenes on the New Zealand South Island were absolutely breathtaking and we once again explored lands that were remote, rugged and a serious challenge! On the last day my sole fell off my shoe and I think Craig had had enough of my complaining by then so he cable tied (a remedy for everything) the sole directly on to my foot and pulled it so tight I could barely feel the blood in my toes. I now had something else to worry about! His bike also disintegrated as we progressed. After the frame broke, the mechanic epoxied it together which at least stopped it squeaking for most of the day! It was the constant squeaking alone that made sure we pushed the 2 minute gap rule to its limit regularly!”
“I am pleased to say for the Swiss Epic we have a whole new look with new bikes and some new kit!
The Epic Legends medal for both of us will be a massive achievement. 5 years ago you would have said it was highly unlikely! Craig recovered from a massive hear attack and I was overweight, unfit and terrible on a mountain bike!
A couple of months ago I also lost a good friend who unexpectedly succumbed to Cancer. My friend Steve showed a lot of keen interest in my progress and was super supportive. Unfortunately he was unexpectedly diagnosed Cancer in February and only lived a further few months. Things escalated quickly and in a short period of time he was no longer able to enjoy the quality of life that we all take for granted. I will ride this race for Steve and will always remember to do the things that I enjoy whilst I still am fortunate and healthy enough to be able to do so! I will also dedicate this ride to Hospice who are absolute angels, providing such a supportive role in my friends last days.
Craig and I are now in our 50’s and hopefully we can go on to do further Epic Adventures following the Swiss Epic! For now though we focus on the awesomeness that lays ahead on the Swiss Epic. We are super excited as well as a little anxious over what is to come. I worry about what we have to climb and he will worry about the descents, but on average I am sure we will be just fine.”