Friday 25 April 2008

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:04 | 2 comments

Cape Epic - Stage 5

We were halfway, and the atmosphere in tent town reflected that last night. Even though we still had some frightfully tough stages ahead of us, we had made it this far, and it was all downhill for here. Figuratively speaking. Dr Evil had other plans.

Our supporters stayed in style

Today we faced the challenge of 146km, with 1819m of climbing, from Swellendam to Bredasdorp. We would also get to ride through De Hoop Nature Reserve, and get our first sighting of the sea since leaving Knysna.

We had given up looking at the route profile, but the plan for the day was to ride according to how we felt. This is the longest stage in Cape Epic history - so everyone was a little nervous. Just how tough was it going to be?

Last minute bike check

Where is my shirt?

The race started in the main road of Swellendam, and we were still lurking down in D. Mountain bike chaos ensued shortly after the start, and the very limited bunch riding skills of many mountain bikers were put to the test, with a couple of casualties within sight of the start. Today was going to be a long day, and there was no way we wanted a handicap so early on, so Craig and I just relaxed, dropped back, and shook our heads at the carnage up ahead.

All smiles before the start

Before long we left the tar and and began a two hour journey over the rolling hills of the farmlands outside Swellendam, to water point one. I wasn't having a good time. I am not sure if it was the fast start, or the efforts from previous days, or the crash, but I just could not get into a rhythm. Perhaps what I was worried about was that I was due a bad day sooner or later. I just hoped it wasn't today. I later said to Craig that if someone had offered to take my bike there and then, I would have quit. But thankfully it was nothing more that a couple cups of Coke, a Gu and toilet stop couldn't fix. We were a little disappointed not to see our supporters at the water point again, but there were enough other people cheering for us to make up for it.

Proof that our supporters were at the water point, but just a little late to see us

We finally entered the nature reserve, and got to say goodbye to the rolling hills that were messing with my mind. We had a good pace going, Craig was on the front towing me along, and for the second day in a row we were passing people. And the first time this Epic, I had to walk up a hill, while Craig rode.

True dedication

We had been promised sandy, rocky roads with plenty of thorns in the nature reserve, but up until now, I had found the going quite easy. Just when I thought it had all been a tactic to scare us, we turned off the main road, and the sandy, rocky trail lay before us. I like to think I am quite a good rider of soft sand, but 20kms of soft sand is enough wear anybody down. Although the thought of quiting didn't enter my mind again, I was more than relieved to turn onto some tar, and be welcomed by the second water point. By now we were a stone's throw from the sea - and it was rather inviting. We gulped down some coke, got the bikes lubed - this was becoming a highlight of the day, had a banana or two, and we were on our way.

Russell's road bike looking dirtier than our bikes

We made good progress on the tar, and had settled into a nice pace when we turned off the tar and onto some gravel. Thoughts of sand ran through our minds, but we needn't have worried. The only thing that was bugging me were the dense reeds on the side of the trail that were hitting against my wounds. I could hear Craig chuckling behind me as I tried to take evasive action.

We got to see some of the local wildlife - some rather interested baboons, and some totally oblivious Blesbok. The foreigners must be loving this.

Spectators doing what specatators do - waiting...

Back on the tar we faced a rather steep climb, and I was extremely relieved that I was able to climb it without having too many hassles. Perhaps I was just taking longer and longer to warm up. The upside of this nasty little climb was the fantastic bit of technical jeep track that would take us back down to the valley floor. We flew down there, only to be slightly impeded by Nolan Hofman who was still coming to grips with this mountain bike thing.

All smiles today

If I am to be remembered for one thing in cycling, I want it to be the following tale:

Once through the valley, we turned onto a long, straight, slightly uphill dirt road, with a gusting wind coming slightly off the front to the left. I took up my spot on the front, some other lone rider behind me, and Craig at the back, all echeloned to the right looking for any slipstream there might be. We could see a group of about 6 riders up ahead, way way up ahead, but it didn't really look like we could catch them. Riding at a good tempo, we made good progress, and before long got to the water point. As we arrived, the group ahead of us were leaving, and we could see that it contained two riders we knew from Hermanus and Somerset West. When they saw us they immediately left the water point without saying hello and disappeared. I gulped down some coke for the belly, and we were off. The single rider had decided to go it alone, and now was lurking halfway between us and the group ahead. Slowly, over about 10 minutes, we first caught the single rider, and then the bunch, and we getting ready to settle down in the bunch when the games began. No one wanted to work on the front in case everyone else got a free ride so the pace was dropping. Craig and I had a chat, and we reckoned we could get away from this group with some very devious road tactics. We swung over to the right of the road, me on the front, with just enough room to the edge for Craig to get in my slipstream and no one else. I then slightly increased the pace, and we proceeded to ride away from them. After about 5 minutes we had about 100m on them, and that was all we needed as we caught and passed more riders ahead of us. I have never guttered anybody before, and it felt especially good to do it in a mountain bike race.

Now it is time to relax (and bask in some glory)

Me and my collection of dirt for the day

Before the Epic, I had never been to Bredasdorp before, so I had no idea how much further we had to go, but my white line fever was kicking in, and I wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Thankfully Theunis was following our progress on SportsTrack and was able to tell the wives that they had to get to the finish as we were about 5km out of town. I don't think anybody expected us to bounce back as suddenly, and as impressively as we did that day. I would never have said I was riding with the same partner, who, two days ago, was a walking (bike pushing) zombie. We had gone from finishing 303rd, to finishing 64th!

Another finish line crossed

Amanda and Sarah in good spirits after a long day

As a reward for our good ride, the wives had bought us a roast chicken to share, although Craig thought he ate a whole chicken on his own. As usual, we were pampered and fussed over, and Russell whispered sweet nothings into the ears of our bikes - telling them to keep up the good work and praising them for 3 days of no mechanical issues.

Some running repairs to get to the finish

They start them young in Breadasdorp

Analysing the day's events

We were treated with a fantastic thunderstorm that evening - lightning all over the sky, and just enough rain to settle the dust and cool the air. The next stage was to Hermanus - Craig was going home, and we wanted to have a good ride for all the fans.

STG 5 48. Cat, 64. GC


  1. Very nice write up dude. I never thought cycling could be that difficult. :-)

    Nevertheless, the joy of success is not only in reaching the target but also cherishing the effort we put in to reach there.

    Nice blog. Keep writing.

  2. hey, just read the last two entries and i got a mention! Yeah for me and sporstrack!