CAPE EPIC 2023: Introducing Team Signal Racing

A South African Mountain Bike Story: Introducing Team Signal Racing

A seasoned veteran and a rookie have teamed up to put South Africa’s newest homegrown mountain bike, the Signal Spectre, through the ultimate test for any mountain bike – the Absa Cape Epic. Oli Munnik and Rogan Smart make up Team Signal Racing and will start the demanding eight-day race with high hopes tempered with a dash of reality. Meet the men and their machine…

Team Signal Racing

  • The Racers: Two ambitious, driven South Africans – Oli Munnik (12 Cape Epics) and Rogan Smart (Cape Epic Newbie)
  • The Challenge: Complete the 2023 Absa Cape Epic, the toughest MTB stage race in the world, with an eye on the prize in the new Working Class Hero Category
  • The Objective: Introduce the brand-new Signal Spectre full-suspension, full-carbon bike via a high-risk eight-day launch on the biggest stage of all
  • Follow: Keep an eye on Signal Racing’s progress @signalbikes on Instagram and Facebook. Oli’s at @OliMunnik and Rogan is at @RoganSmart.

In human years, Oli Munnik is only 37, but in mountain bike years, he’s double that. Racing mountain bikes since high school in various disciplines, including downhill, cross-country, marathon and stage-racing there’s very little in the sport that Oli hasn’t encountered.

Once a full-time racer, Oli now juggles being a dad to a two-year-old daughter, husband to committed trail-runner wife and his full-time job as Marketing Manager at Rush Sports. Unlike most bicycle industry marketing mangers though, Oli often forms a key part of the marketing strategy, especially when it comes to Signal, a bike brand owned by Rush Sports that delivers durable, good-value bikes, firmly aimed at the South African market.

In 2019 Oli and teammate Jarrod van den Heever piloted the Signal Elite, an aluminium hardtail, to 38thposition overall at the Absa Cape Epic, generating a powerful message of credibility for the bike and earning a high level of respect from their rivals. They competed as Team Signal then and this year, Oli will be paired up with 25-year-old Absa Cape Epic novice, Rogan Smart as Team Signal Racing. Racing being the operative word because they’ll be taking a gun to a gun fight this time – the full-carbon, full-suspension brand-new Signal Spectre…

Oli Munnik

Despite having classic adult responsibilities, Oli is perpetually fit and ready to race. Not one to mince his words, he’s typically candid when answering some key questions about Team Signal Racing’s launch into the highly competitive mountain bike market at the world’s biggest stage race.

After 12 Cape Epics, what do you look forward to most?
There are two elements to this: Firstly, and most importantly, the partnership is what I look forward to the most. Secondly, the satisfaction and relief of getting to the finish at Val de Vie, having successfully executed whatever marketing objectives we have set ourselves, for instance the GoPro video series in 2016 alongside Matt Beers, pulling off stickers that covered the yet-to-be-released Santa Cruz Blur mid Stage 2 in 2018; and racing with Team Signal in 2019 on the Elite hardtail frames.

And what do you fear the most?
Funnily enough, it’s actually the two weeks before the Epic that I fear the most. The anxiety of something happening so close to the race is sometimes unbearable. My wife has to deal with a nutcase!

How long have you known Rogan for?
I’ve known Rogan for roughly five years.

After completing the recent PE Plett four-day stage race with Rogan, what do you feel you learned – about him and about racing as his teammate?
PE Plett was our first time riding together and proved to be the perfect dress rehearsal – I left the race extremely happy to be lining up alongside Rogan at the 2023 Cape Epic. He was calm and level headed throughout the race, and he is a team player, ready to help when it’s required. I am particularly looking forward to tucking in behind him on the flats!

Have you been following a specific Cape Epic training plan? If so, what sort of hours per week have you been clocking up lately?
I don’t follow a training program, but rather understand that I need to peak in March, not January and February, so I spread the load from December to March trying to balance time in the saddle with intensity. Weekends are longer rides and during the week I ride three times with one important session being on the road with the ‘Tap Out Tuesday’ group, which is always a lekker rivet. It’s amazing to see how in January I get destroyed, and by mid-February I can give the guys a run for their money. One has to trust the process.

Off the bike, I have a weekly conditioning session with Big Zone at The Gunshow and run a hilly 10km trail every Thursday morning with ‘The Burn’, both of which play a critical role in my preparation.  And this year I have tried to race as much as possible to guarantee some extra intensity. Hours per week, I’d say 10-12 hours in a good week.

What are your primary objectives at the 2023 Cape Epic?
Given the unpredictably of Epic, I always acknowledge four scenarios so that one is prepared for various scenarios. In order of how things pan out:

  • Best Case: Working Class Heroes Jersey
  • B Result: Top 30
  • C Result: Top 50
  • D Result: Finish

What do you feel are your riding strengths?
Consistency over multiple days; I climb well; I can recover on technical terrain;  I can corner well. Sounds silly, but over eight days I save a few seconds and, critically, watts through hundreds of corners and this adds up over time.

And do you have any possible weaknesses?

I have struggled over the past descending in cold weather, my legs go to sleep and I have to chew my stem to keep up the pace – this is when the partnership comes into play. I really struggle with short climbs that have a fast approach – feels like I just don’t have the raw power to maintain the pace.

Rogan Smart

Rogan is 25 and lives in Plettenberg Bay. He works at The Bike Shop and co-owns the in-store coffee shop. Like Oli, he also started mountain biking at high school and so far, his mountain bike racing has been mostly local, where he’s regularly a podium contender. He and Oli teamed up to race one of the local events, PE Plett, a fortnight ago. They finished third overall, confirmation of them being a good match. This was intended to prepare them as teammates for the Absa Cape Epic, where Rogan will experience a new kind of pressure – on and off the bike.

For the first time, there is an Amateur (aka Working Class Hero) Category at the Cape Epic. There’s a good chance that this may be the most contested category at the race and any one of around 30 teams will fancy their chances of winning this, including Team Signal Racing…

Of the two, Rogan is more soft-spoken and understandably more nervous. Like an enthusiastic puppy he’s going to be watching and learning from the old dog over the 658km with 15775 metres of climbing. He’s less chatty than Oli and this is how he feels with just over a week to go.

How do you feel about tackling your first Absa Cape Epic?

I am incredibly excited, but also pretty nervous! Just keen to get it all started now

How long have you known Oli for?

I’ve known Oli for a few years through working with Rush Sports, but definitely got to know him a lot better last month at PE Plett!

After completing PE Plett with Oli, what do you feel you learned – about him and about racing as his teammate?

I definitely learned a few of his tricks to ride more efficiently over climbs and in general. He’s still incredibly strong and very quick on a descent! Also, flat open roads are not his favourite thing. Ha ha!

Have you been following a specific Cape Epic training plan? If so, what sort of hours per week have you been clocking up lately?

Yeah for sure. My weeks have probably been between 15 and 20 hours, all specifically structured sessions, with a bit of gym work thrown in there too.

What are your primary objectives at the 2023 Cape Epic?

As far as I know, we both just want to have a consistently strong ride over the eight days. We’ll be sure to limit our chances of encountering any problems and hopefully finish as one of the stronger amateur teams in the new White Jersey competition.

What do you feel are your riding strengths?

I would probably say open roads and low-gradient climbs/drags.

And do you have any possible weaknesses?

Loose, rocky singletrack descents are not always my favourite.

 

The Signal Spectre

Oli and Rogan are tackling the Cape Epic on a bike that’s been months in the making and is fresh off the production line. Designed for South African-style racing conditions, the Spectre is Signal’s first foray into the mountain biking sweet spot – competitive marathon and stage racing.

More detail will be revealed in Chapter 2 just before the start of the Cape Epic, so for now, here’s brief summary: the Signal Spectre is lightweight, stiff, durable, has efficient suspension, has optimised geometry, carries two bottles inside the frame and comes in a special colourway that symbolises both speed and flair.

Here’s what the Team Signal Racing men have to say ahead of the world’s most demanding bike test.

Rogan’s thoughts

How does it feel to be able to ride a South African bike brand at your first Cape Epic?

I am incredibly stoked to be able to ride a local brand of bike and hopefully show how capable it is at the hardest mountain bike race! It’s an amazing project to be a part of.

What is your first impression of the new Signal Spectre?

I’m honestly very impressed. It’s super stable at high speeds and the rear end is surprisingly forgiving for a single-pivot bike. Also, having the 120mm fork up front just gives you a lot more confidence on the descents.

Oli’s thoughts

You have put in some solid milage on the Spectre, including some classic tough Western Cape racing miles. How does it compare to other modern full-sus bikes you have raced on?

I’ll say this: Spectre owners will not be left disappointed, this bike is as good as anything I have ridden in the past.

What tyres are you going with and why?

Both Rogan and I are running Maxxis Rekon Race 29×2.4″ WT tyres on Reserve 28 rims. EXO casing is a must and the tread pattern is consistent and reliable. A combination every Epic rider should be looking for, as opposed to any that is marketed as lightweight. The Reserve’s wide rim width is perfectly suited to the shape of the high volume Rekon Race and creates a brilliant contact patch with the ground. I’ve found the new WT tyres to be one of the best things to come out of mountain biking over the past few years – the higher volumes and softer pressures they allow make a huge difference off-road.

 

This article first appeared on TREAD MTB

 


You may also like

View all
Example blog post
Example blog post
Example blog post