Absa #ConquerAsOne Moment – Cape Epic Stage 1
When Jaco-Albert van Gass and Stuart Croxford were injured in separate incidents during missions for the British army in Afghanistan, riding an event as tough as the Absa Cape Epic seemed an impossible dream.
But on Monday the two Britons survived the tough 111km Stage 1 in just over 7:30 as the first amputee team to compete in the world’s toughest mountain bike race.
Van Gass, a former South African, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade which immediately severed his left arm while sustaining severe thigh, knee and ankle injuries and a collapsed lung during an surprise Taliban attack just two weeks before he was due to return home.
In 2012, Croxford’s vehicle was hit by a landmine and he sustained severe injuries to his right leg. Within 24 hours of being injured he was back in the UK getting treatment but after two years and multiple complications surgeons were forced to amputate.
Despite the loss of their limbs, both former soldiers have not let their disabilities get in the way of their dreams. Van Gass has taken on challenges to the North Pole and Everest while Croxford qualified as a ski instructor after his leg was amputated.
Although both underwent rehabilitation at the Headley Court Defence Centre they only met afterwards before Jaco invited Croxford to take on the ominous challenge of the Absa Cape Epic.
“We don’t want our disability to define us,” Van Gass says. “Yes there are limitations to what you can do but we really want to inspire and mentor others that may have been injured or suffer from disabilities.”
“When my leg got amputated it lit a fire inside me to see what I could do,” Croxford said. “And when Jaco asked me to join him last summer I said yes before I’d even been on a mountain bike.”
During the tough Stage 1 in Hermanus, Van Gass took a nasty tumble but was confident the two would still conquer the eight days.
“You need to have confidence in what you do and then people forget you are missing a limb,” Van Gass said.
The team’s name – KT18 – is the first part of the postcode of the rehab centre they both attended at Headley Court and a reminder of the work the staff at the facility did to help the two build a new future.
What is Absa #ConquerAsOne?
Absa will once again be recognising and rewarding teamwork and perseverance at the 2019 Absa Cape Epic with the #ConquerAsOne campaign. At each stage of the race, an extraordinary #ConquerAsOne moment will be identified and recognised, where a team showed immense human spirit to overcome their own personal challenges to conquer that stage together.
During this year’s race, a panel of judges will select one #ConquerAsOne moment on each day of the race. The winning pair will be announced in the dining marquee where they will receive a unique #ConquerAsOne jersey to wear proudly during the next day’s stage. At the end of the week, the judges will then select the overall #ConquerAsOne moment, with the winning team walking away with an Absa Pride entry for the 2020 Absa Cape Epic.