21 Apr Cape Epic 2017
For me the Cape Epic starts in December the previous year already. The race isn’t one you want to go into unprepared physically or mentally and undecided on equipment. 30 hour plus riding weeks happen during this period, tapping off on the quantity and picking up on the quality training closer to the event. Carefully selected races are used as stepping stones pre Epic, testing yourself and machine.
This year’s preparations went like clockwork following a tweaked plan of what I’ve done for previous Epic’s. Last year’s plan proved to be close to perfect with my partner and I went on to achieve our goal of claiming the African Jersey competition and finishing 6th overall. This year’s Epic, I knew it would be faster with more XCO competitors taking part. This required a tweak to the type of training I was doing. Route research or “recce” is also important and big advantage.
10th last team to start we had some big names to chase and some big names were chasing us. We finished the day in a respectable 14th place against the world’s best. We also only finished 15 seconds behind our main competition in the African Jersey category. I was happy with the day’s work.
In Hermanus was earmarked by the riders who had pre-ridden the route as the hardest stage of the event. I agreed with this statement and came to proof with around 80 teams abandoning, not finishing in the allocated time limit. We raced well and finished with our main African Jersey competition and putting some time into the rest. We finished 13th on the day and were sitting 2nd in the African Jersey Category.
Hermanus to Greyton. Well almost, stage 2 was shortened by the organizers due the extreme heat and humidity. We only raced to the 2nd water point in Caledon halving the stage distance by 40km. I for one was happy with this decision. Overnight I had some stomach issues likely caused by the previous day’s heat and consumption of energy drinks and energy gels. A condition I’ve experienced before in my years of racing and even during a pervious Cape Epic. I knew I had to race cleverly and not spend any more than needed. HB did a great job in doing most of the pace work and we limited our losses hanging on to 2nd overall but still opening the gap to 3rd place team in the African Jersey Category.
Dubbed Greyton’s play day. The stage took riders around Greyton’s amazing trail network and up the infamous UFO climb before diving down back the finish. I knew this stage very as I have ridden around these parts many times before and also again just before the event with HB. With me back to full health we raced a steady stage finishing in 14th and still 2nd in the African Category.
From Greyton to Oak Valley “transition day”. This years longest stage at 112km with many kilometres of open gravel and farm roads it was crucial to be in a group for as long as possible. Almost like safety in numbers, larger groups of riders will travel faster. Alone you are at the mercy of the wind. Today was our “mechanical day”, it was probably the worst day at the worst time to get a puncture. I got a small puncture 15km into the stage. The hole didn’t seal and we were forced to stop and plug the tire, after searching for the hole I managed to force the plug into the tire, bombed to pressure and started to chase. By the time we reached the first technical assistance zone we were around 2min off the leading group. Unfortunately my tire had slowly gone flat again. Which in my experience leads me to believe that there wasn’t enough sealant in the tire to start with and was most likely the cause of the puncture not sealing. We had spare wheels in the tech zone and swapped out the wheel losing more time in the process and continued the chase. It was a case of limiting the day’s losses, the chase never stopped until we crossed the line. We’d dropped down to 3rd in the African Jersey Category
Oak Valley’s edition of “play day”. Littered with single-track after single-track. I was looking forward to this day as Oak Valley and surrounds are almost my back yard. Lots of my training happens here. Super fast technical riding isn’t my strongest strength but I surprised myself 2 years ago at the Cape Epic when my previous partner and I finished 6th and we won the African Jersey on the stage. The worst sight any rider in the Epic can see is he’s team mate rushing into a porta-loo at a water point. At this point I knew we as a team were in serious trouble. A stomach bug like this will ruin and most likely end anyone’s Epic campaign gone flat again. Which in my experience leads me to believe that there wasn’t enough sealant in the tire to start with and was most likely the cause of the puncture not sealing. We had spare wheels in the tech zone and swapped out the wheel losing more time in the process and continued the chase. It was a case of limiting the day’s losses, the chase never stopped until we crossed the line. We’d dropped down to 3rd in the African Jersey Category.
“The Queen Stage” said to be the hardest stage on paper. 103km with 2750m of climbing. Before the event started I was looking forward to this stage the most as it suited both my and HB’s strengths. Now in the event I was very stressed as I didn’t know how HB’s body had recovered from he’s stomach bug. I found out as soon as we hit the climb of the day and it wasn’t looking good. I could see HB was giving it he’s all but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the competition. Lots of frustration was in the air from all involved as we’d dropped off the African Jersey podium.
“The Finale” The final day and stage to Val de Vie. Could we have just one last stab at a good stage finish, possibly take back 3rd place? Lady luck was not on our side, she wasn’t even at present. In the neutral zone running out of Oak Valley HB was involved in a crashed caused by another rider. Unfortunately for us another rider also involved in the crash got he’s foot jammed in HB’s back wheel and frame. It took what seemed like ages to get he’s foot out and then to see a broken spoke that punctured the rim tape leaving us with another flat wheel not more than 500m from the start line. We needed to fit a spare tube after removing the broken spoke. We got up and running again and raced to the first tech zone through a batch of riders who had started behind us. We changed wheels again not wanting to risk another puncture with a tubed tire. We did eventually did get to the finish line in Val de Vie. Not the last stage we’d hope for and not the result we came here for. I am extremely disappointed, as is the rest of the team and staff. Many months of hard work and sacrifice again went into this race and to finish it off like this is probably one of my biggest disappointments.