|Jan Braai, renowned for his National Braai Day initiative, will turn his attention to a fresh challenge when he participates in the Liberty TransCape MTB Encounter next month.|
The 614km Western Cape race from Knysna to Franschhoek, hosted by ASG events in partnership with STANLIB and Volvo, starts on February 4.
After riding in 25 consecutive Cape Town Cycle Tours, Jan will tick off another item on his cycling wish list.
An avid rider, he is equally adept on a mountain bike, having tackled events such as the Cape Epic, Wines2Whales and the Berg&Bush.
He is thrilled to have an opportunity to ride in one of the “biggest races left on my bucket list”.
“It’s always been on my radar but the deal was sealed over a bottle of wine when I was on a cycling holiday in the Klein Karoo and met the founder of the event, Lenore Collett,” Jan said this week.
“They were doing a route recce and we happened to be staying at the same lodge.”
Jan, who grew up in Stellenbosch and now lives in Sea Point in Cape Town, is the head of the National Braai Day initiative, which began more than a decade ago.
“Since 2005, our aim has been to encourage all South Africans to unite around a fire, share our heritage and wave our flag on September 24,” he said.
“It’s a public holiday and we’re trying to position that date every year as our country’s national day of celebration, similar to St Patrick’s Day in Ireland or Thanksgiving in the US.
“In short, we want to get 50 million people around braai fires one day per year.”
In reply to an obvious question, he said with a chuckle: “My real name is Jan but my surname, as many might guess, is not Braai.
“Over time I have become known as Jan Braai or Jan, the guy from National Braai Day.”
With braaing as his job and cycling as his hobby, Jan is looking forward to the social aspect of the TransCape.
“The food definitely excites me,” he said, “but the TransCape also traverses a truly magnificent part of South Africa, with incredible scenery and beauty.
“Riding point to point from Knysna to Cape Town will be a privilege.”
What he enjoyed most at events such as these was hearing people’s stories, advice and tips, he said.
“Everyone has a trick up their sleeve and eventually you acquire a treasure trove of tacit knowledge by listening to all the tales.
“Through my television show, the books I write and various other media engagements, people usually know me better than I know them.
“Sitting next to guys and girls on a bicycle all day, talking nonsense, is also a great way to get to know people.”
Adding that the TransCape was famous for its fantastic food, Jan said he did not think he could improve the situation much.
“The catering and braai team at the event are very experienced and capable and, frankly, I don’t think they need my help.
“I will gladly eat a few testers while filling the chef’s wine glass. And if there are any water points with braai fires, I will be the guy who spends a while there.”
Not surprisingly, as a braai aficionado, Jan has some ideas on South Africa’s favourite tradition.
“In my view, the ingredients for the perfect braai are the view, a massive wood fire and good company.
“Also, if you’re in any doubt as to whether your fire is big enough, your fire is too small.
“I also advise quality over quantity. And if you think the meat is ready, it is, because 99% of meat is over-braaied.”