BY ENDURANCE NEWS STAFF
When Katja Steenkamp puts her mind to something, nothing can stand in her way. And in 2012, when she started playing around with the idea of biking across Africa, she knew she was in for a long haul. Over the next four years, Katja continued to dream, plan, and slowly inch her way toward turning that dream into reality. On January 14, 2016, Katja stood in the shadows of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt, and began pedaling to Cape Town, South Africa. Her journey would take 120 days and cover over 12,000 km.
Katja took part in the Tour d’Afrique (TDA), which offers this monstrous bike tour across Africa. It’s a once-in-alifetime trip if you’re up for the challenge! The trip is also timed as a race. (As if navigating across a continent isn’t enough already!) You can choose whether or not you want to be timed at the beginning. If you choose to be timed, the ride consists of 60 race days and 30 casual days. Katja, of course, chose to race!
Ninety days in the saddle requires serious nutrition and recovery, and that’s not to even mention that this ride across Africa took place in temperatures that rose above 105°F at times. Katja powered her entire ride with Hammer Nutrition, using Chocolate and Strawberry-Vanilla Perpetuem®, Strawberry HEED®, Endurolytes® Extreme, Grape Endurolytes® Fizz, Premium Insurance Caps, and Orange-Vanilla Recoverite®. Packing was a challenge for her, “Given that I took half of Hammer Nutrition’s stock with me, I was left with little space for other things. My permanent bag consisted of merely Perpetuem, Recoverite, spare parts, medical supplies, and electronic equipment.”
The ride took Katja across ten countries. Her days were rarely dull. From elephants and camels to hyenas and lions, there was always wildlife to enjoy. Plus, there was no shortage of surprises along the route—water stops that mysteriously vanished, rocks thrown from onlookers, and miles upon miles of washboard roads. Katja’s biggest challenge, however, began as soon as she got on her bike.
Katja started the trip on her top-of-the-line dual suspension mountain bike. She did her research and thought it was the perfect choice. However, she realized on the first day that she was the only one on a mountain bike! Everyone else had gravel grinders. Katja quickly discovered why, as day after day, the other riders outpaced her. She stayed competitive, but slowly slipped farther behind first place. In mid-March, her hometown bike shop, Revolution Cycles, and a friend from Cape Town were able to coordinate delivery of a new bike. In Nairobi, Kenya, Katja hopped onto her new gravel grinder and started gaining ground on the leaderboard.
Finishing the TDA is challenging enough, but Katja started eying a new goal as the miles wore on: winning it. She rode hard each race day and was able to steadily gain ground on the competition. Injuries and sickness started eating at her fellow riders. “The largest difference between me and the other riders was that I was in better health. I didn’t get sick or suffer any injuries. I took Premium Insurance Caps every day—it’s what kept me healthy and going strong.”
After countless miles of deserts, sand dunes, and the occasional oasis, Katja crossed the border into South Africa with a narrow lead. Her closest competitor was only hours behind, which meant that she had to push the entire trip. She powered through the final race day to come away with the win— the first woman to ever win the Tour d’Afrique!
The win wasn’t Katja’s only accomplishment. She earned the badge of riding every single inch across Africa. Very few riders earn this during TDA due to injury, sickness, or fatigue. It truly was a herculean effort—one that couldn’t have been done without Hammer fuels and Premium Insurance Caps.