Chief officer Arvid Ljungberg (31) and his team mate Markus Jokinen (42) recently completed their first Cape Epic, a gruelling eight-day mountain bike stage race which takes place in the Western Cape, South Africa. Coined as one of the toughest races in the world, the event sees 1,200 amateur and professional athletes come together from 55 different countries.
Riders are expected to compete in two person teams with a separation distance of no more than two-minutes apart. The Scandinavian duo came in the top third of the field and secured 94th position in the Men’s category.
In the build up to the race, the pair made the Cote D’Azur their playground, racking up hundreds of hours in the saddle on Specialized Epic Expert 29ers. We caught up with Arvid on how to achieve the perfect work-life balance.
OO: Tell us about your career in the yachting industry?
My first summer was in 2006 on a 44m schooner built in 1926. The boat was over in San Francisco in the 40’s and 50’s chartering with famous celebrities of the time: James Dean, Brigitte Bardot... When I got the job, I had €200 left in my account and already had my ticked booked back to Sweden. I joined the industry full time in 2009 and did my Chief Mate 3000gt in spring 2014. Now I’m working on a 45m Admiral as chief officer and looking to start my Master 500gt at the end of this year.
OO: What got you into cycling?
Some crazy woman...
OO: What do you love about cycling?
Lots of things! It’s a great way to explore. You cover great distances at a time. Usually when I get to a new city I go for a run to get my bearings but now I go for a ride to learn more about the place I am in. I also love coffee. Coffee and cycling go hand-in-hand.
OO: The Cape Epic is nicknamed the ‘Tour de France of mountain biking’. You are relatively new to the sport; what made you want to ride in such a tough race?
I wanted the physical and mental challenge. It’s the ultimate mountain bike test, which takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It also fits well into the yachting seasons [taking place in March every year].
OO: How did you secure an entry?
We were lucky to secure a spot. The race is extremely popular with only 1,200 riders accepted each year out of 30,000 applicants. We got in through a charity organisation called Laureus Sport for Good Foundation -- a global charity, which works to improve the lives of kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
OO: What were your biggest challenges leading up to the race?
Without doubt, the 04h30 wake up calls! Monday to Sunday, October to March, when it is dark and cold. At the time, you feel pretty crazy and you wonder if it’s worth it but at the end of the day, once it is all done, I wouldn’t hesitate doing it over again.
OO: How did the race go?
It went well. We ended up roughly where I thought we would be [top third of the field]. The level of the other teams was higher than what I expected and the competition was a lot harder. But overall, for our first year, we are very happy with the result. In the end, we had five crashes and one cracked bike frame. We were just happy to come out without any major injuries and just a few minor roasties.
OO: Where are your favourite places to cycle in the South of France and why?
Fort de la Revere in Grande Corniche [above Eze Village]. There are tough climbs out there but the reward is amazing... A view of the whole coastline.
Gourdon, a stunning little village.
Coffee cruises to Dolce Aqua, a quaint Italian village with a river flowing through it.
OO: How did you manage to balance the demanding job of being a crew member and training for the event?
I was lucky to have a good rotation over the winter, which gave me a lot of time to train. No matter what, you make the time to train for a goal you have set; the same way you take time to study for exams. You have to be disciplined and just use the time that you have.
OO: What is your advice to crew who want to achieve their personal sporting goals?
Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from the majority. It’s easy to fall victim of group pressure especially in yachting where the drinking and pub culture is so big. I know it can be hard, but you need a goal otherwise it is so easy to fall back.
Captains, officers and all heads of departments are the ones that need to set a good example. If you have leaders who live active lives, the rest of the crew will do exactly the same thing.
OO: What is the next challenge?
To stay fit over the busy summer season [laughs]. You have to take every opportunity you have to get your training into the charter day. It can be done. Most of the time when you feel you need to sleep, it’s better to go for a walk or a run than crash in your bunk.