Friday 18 April 2008

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:39 | No comments

Cape Epic - Stage 3

After a reasonably good night's sleep, we awoke to the challenge of Stage 3 - 133km from Calitzdorp to Riversdale, with 2340 meters of climbing.

The route profile didn't look as bad as the previous day's efforts, but this was by no means an easy stage. We had decided that it was no good trying to race anymore - we were too far down on classification, and Craig was in need of a day with as little suffering as possible. Today was our recovery day. We were going to take it easy, and ride very conservatively, and hopefully recover from the excesses of the first two days.

Did someone say 'dancing girls'?

By now we were seeded in D, and the front of the race was getting further and further away from us. It is a little hard to accept that people that we usually beat without too much effort were miles ahead of us, and still looking strong.

Tent town at Calitzdorp Spa

We had 15km of relatively flat riding before the first climb of the day - the Rooiberg Pass. We stayed with our start bunch and got a nice tempo going. As the road started going up, we started going backwards. The effort of the previous two days had cost Craig, and he was suffering. It took us over an hour to climb Rooiberg Pass, and we must have been passed by half the field. The upside was that I got to have a good look at the surrounding scenery, chat to the passing riders, and generally have a rather relaxing climb. I don't think Craig saw the scenery or did much chatting, and the climb certainly wasn't relaxing for him.

While the men were out riding, the ladies enjoyed the area's hospitality.

The one area that we were still good at was going downhill, and we were able to make up a lot of places going down the back of Rooiberg Pass. If only there was more downhill. Before we knew it, we were at the bottom, and 60km of rolling hills awaited us. We rode some, walked others, knocking them off one at a time. Craig set the pace today, and I tried to ride behind him where possible. We were in no rush - this was going to be the day that was going to save our Epic.

Some famous roadie

On a stretch of downhill, with my mind wondering all over the place, I let my front wheel drift about 15cm off the line into a loose rocky section, and before I could do anything, was lying on the ground with my bike on top of me. A quick check to see that nothing was broken (both me and the bike) and I was up and on my way again. The guy behind me was quite concerned, and when I asked him how spectacular the crash was, he gave me 12 out of 10. As the adrenalin wore off, I started to feel the aches and pains of the crash. I had bashed my knee, and grazed my hip and elbow, and bruised my shoulder. In a way, the pain felt good, and served as a motivator to get to the end.

After a long, boring, slightly uphill dirt road into a head wind, we reached the 3rd water point of the day. The wives had been waiting for us here, and were sick to death from worry when we finally did arrive. We took a longish stop while we stocked up on juice and fruit before we set off to conquer the final 30kms of the stage.

A long long wait in the hot sun

Arriving at the watering point

The remainder of the day was all on tar, but we had to get over the Garcias Pass and deal with a strong headwind before we could call it a day.

The tar briefly revived Craig, and we initially made good progress. By now we were being passed by several teams that I knew, and my competitive spirit was being awakened. I was quite impressed that I had been able to keep it under control for so long. I went to the front, and let Craig tuck in behind me, as we set a steady pace up the climb. Where the road steepened a bit, I got Craig to hang on to my Camelbak as we ground our way up the pass, passing some of the people who passed us earlier.

We love tar!

A fast, sweeping descent awaited us on the other side, and with the help of two Spaniards we flew down the pass at speeds of around 80km/h. As the road flattened out we were hit with a gusting South Wester - which for us was a headwind. With Craig hanging on again, I put my head down and pedaled for the finish line in Riversdale. We caught some groups along the way, and each time ended up riding away from them as the pace was too slow. Also, these groups contained people that would have just loved to finish ahead of me. That was not going to happen!


We crossed the line after 7h15 - a long day for anyone. Craig was still feeling dizzy and nauseous, and was whisked off to the medics by Bonte, in the hope that they could repair him overnight. Today's stage had claimed several riders, one of them being the partner of the guy I rode with last year. It didn't seem to matter how much training you had done - this race could get to anyone.

Yolanda was quite glad to see me - her eyes lit up when she saw my wounds. Finally, she could do something that she enjoyed - clean wounds and apply dressings. So apart from the usual feeding and watering, bottle washing and bed making, she got to pick grit out of wounds, and apply honey soaked dressings. I just think she forgot that I am not an ICU patient - I was conscious and not on morphine - I could feel pain.

Craig received 2 liters of saline from the medics, and the doctor told him was dehydrated, and wasn't drinking enough. When we checked his Camelbak the previous day, he had barely had 5 mouthfuls from it, in 7 hours! From now on he was do finish a bottle an hour, and I was to be Bonte's enforcer. A job that I didn't want to fail at!

Having missed his massage because of his stay in the medical tent, Craig had a late night massage, and afterwards got lost in tent city. He could not find his tent again, and did not have his phone on him. I had gone to bed after dinner, and had my earplugs in and had taken a sleeping tablet. Together with the security guard, Craig spent about an hour trying to find his tent, and eventually had to borrow a phone to call Bonte to get instructions on where his tent was. Afterall, they all do look the same. It was a good thing he had had a nap while he was on the drip.

The riders are in bed, time to open the wine!

The drip seemed to have done some good, as for the first time in a couple of days Craig was looking quite cheerful the next morning. Were we about to turn the corner?

STG 3 194. Cat, 303. GC


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