Cyclingnews chatted with Virgin Group founder and chairman Richard Branson about his latest adventure – participating in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.
CN: Your motto seems to be “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. What prompted you to join 35 000 other riders for the world’s largest individually timed cycle race?
RB: I love doing things for the first time and challenging myself. A 109km bike ride in such beautiful setting certainly fits the bill. Plus, our airlines fly at 35 000 feet, so I wanted to join 35 000 pairs of feet in cycling the Cape Argus.
CN: With Virgin Active being the official health and wellness partner of the Cycle Tour, why did you think it important to make an appearance yourself?
RB: Last year my son Sam rode in the Cycle Slam with English sporting heroes Lawrence Dallaglio and Freddie Flintoff – I joined them at the end of one leg and enjoyed the experience. When the team at Virgin told me of the race in Cape Town and described the challenge, I couldn’t turn it down. I’ve heard all about the enthusiasm of the crowd and hope they will help us around the course.
CN: Now that doping among top professionals is making world headlines, is it important for you and Virgin Active to encourage a healthier approach to the sport among ordinary cyclists?
RB: It is very important that we all encourage a healthier approach to sport amongst everyone. Virgin Active is a great example of a business that does this across South Africa and in the other five countries we operate in. Cycling is a great way to highlight the benefits of staying in shape and healthy living.
CN: What is your personal goal for the race – do you have a particular time in mind?
RB: I would like to get around in just over five hours, around the same time that I ran the London Marathon a few years ago. But cycling this distance is definitely a first for me, so having fun and completing the course is my main goal.
CN: What part does exercise play in your own busy daily schedule? Do you find that cycling helps to lower your stress levels and/or increase your energy levels and productivity?
RB: Exercise plays a big role in my daily life. When I’m at home on Necker Island we often begin the day with a game of tennis, always make time for kite-surfing and enjoy swimming too. I’ve been cycling in the gym to prepare for the Cape Argus, and have taken part in the Virgin London Triathlon before too. Sport helps keep the mind active as well as the body, and often business ideas come from the inspiration of exercise.
CN: You’ve been very involved with South Africa in your capacity as a humanitarian. Is this a country that’s close to your heart and why?
RB: South Africa is one of my favourite places in the world. I was on the streets the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison and have enormous admiration for the example set by Madiba and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Chair of The Elders. Every time we come to South Africa, the people are incredibly welcoming and full of life. There is a thriving entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa, and a more-than healthy love of competition!
CN: Will you be spending time at your private game reserve, Ulusaba, while you’re here and what else is on your itinerary?
RB: I’m looking forward to visiting Ulusaba, it really is one of the most spectacular places on earth. We’re also spending time in Jo’burg and Cape Town, which are always exciting cities to explore. It will be wonderful to visit some of the inspiring entrepreneurs at the Branson Centre, as well as our staff and customers across the country. We’re certainly making the most of our visit!
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