The Covid-19 lockdown has inspired some extreme exercise measures from cyclists, runners and triathletes. In a series of Home Challenge stories, we look at a few FNB Wines2Whales legends’ backyard adventures; starting with Matthys Beukes.
PYGA Euro Steel’s Matthys Beukes is one half, along with Philip Buys, of South Africa’s most successful stage racing team; in recent years. Among his illustrious list of wins is the 2017 FNB Wines2Whales title. For a man used to going on long training rides and spending weekends away racing, the lockdown has been particularly tough.
“After Cape Epic was cancelled and I got back home I was severely depressed. The reality of what was going to happen hit me hard” Beukes confessed. “After 3 or 4 days I realised that I had a decision to make. I could take control of how I handle the situation. I started working on the lap around our house to get it ready for something special, exactly what I didn’t know at the time; but I knew it would have to be something that would push my boundaries and hopefully inspire other people in this tough time.”
The origin of Beukes’ idea for a 24-hour challenge came from Netflix. Fortunately, he found inspiration from Carroll Shelby rather than Joe Exotic, or the challenge could have been very different. “One night my wife Michele and I were watching Ford vs Ferrari on Netflix” Beukes explained. “It’s about the battle to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race between Ford and Ferrari. I thought it must be so cool to do something like that, the rest is history! I highly recommend watching that movie too.”
“The lap is around 400 metres long, super technical with loads of twists and turns, stairs up and down, and a bridge up onto a wall that I built from a piece of fence I took out” he pointed out. “At best I can average 14 kilometres per hour on it, so the going is slow. My lap times vary from 1.5 to 2 minutes per lap. I also didn’t have a 24-hour solo ride in mind when I set out the course. It is probably the hardest course I could design around our house. When the 24-hour idea came up I knew doing it on this course would be a challenge, but that was what I was looking for so I didn’t change anything.”
The ride itself turned into a test of psychological endurance rather than physical, Beukes revealed: “The craziest thing about that experience, for me, is how mental it was. I’m always very aware of the mental side of things and how important it is but doing this just highlighted what I’ve come to learn very, very, clearly… Once you are in the right state of mind, pretty much anything is possible. I found the hardest part of the 24-hours were the first 20 minutes. It really felt like a massive weight on my shoulders. In both the days leading up to the ride and especially during those first 20 minutes; but once I tuned into the right mindset, it was plain sailing all the way through to the end.”
“That was the mental side of things, but physically I struggled with severe pain in my hands for the last 8 hours. The mental/physical battle was never going to be lost though. So, I knew the pain was just something that I was going to have to accept, manage it if I can (which I never could) and deal with it. That physical challenge was minor compared to the mental battle of the first 20 minutes.”
“It is ok to feel overwhelmed by the mountains we face and if it gets us down, that is ok too” Beukes philosophised. “The human mind is way more powerful than we think and anyone has the ability to tune into a better mindset to turn things around; it’s not easy but it is possible. When I struggled during those first 20 minutes, a metaphorical mountain loomed over me, I started thinking about how beautiful the mountain is and how I’m going to enjoy climbing it. I tried to look forward to experiencing the ups and downs it was going to give me. It’s difficult but you should try to find the positives in every situation; and when there are none, embrace the challenges.”
Family has proved to be more important than ever during the lockdown and Beukes feels fortunate to have the support of his wife, in lockdown and beyond. “The people in your team can make or break you, my wife, Michele was super supportive of me and that meant the world to me. Also, my neighbours came out at 2am to give some support and the boost that gave was really important. This made me realise the importance of giving people more love and support. If it’s free to give, why not?”
“It really is about the journey and not the destination, I never really went anywhere but I loved it” Beukes concluded.