Tuesday 29 April 2008

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:28 | 1 comment

Cape Epic - Stage 6

Today was the big one - we were going to Hermanus. Craig was going home, and I was going to my holiday home (which just happens to be Craig's home). For the first time in almost a week we were feeling confident of riding well.

Today's stage was 130km's long and included 2095m of climbing. We had a 14km climb waiting for us in Salmonsdam Nature Reserve, but we knew what to expect from various training rides in the area. The only question was - did we have it in our legs to put in a performance like yesterday's?

We had been reseeded into C - and could almost see the front of the bike race. The rain overnight gave everything a crisp, fresh feeling - perfect for a day of bike racing. Once again the start was rather chaotic and fast on a tar section out of town, but we quickly got into a comfortable rhythm. After yesterday's crashes, we took care to avoid any riders who looked a little suspect in their bunch riding skills. We are so judgmental. :)

I want to be a spectator

We turned off the tar, and headed across some farmlands towards Napier. For the second day in a row we were passing people, and for the second day in a row, Craig was setting the pace, and I was hanging on. This was how the Epic was supposed to be - Craig is a strong starter, and I am a good finisher. Somewhere in the middle we meet, and then we ride exceptionally well.

By now I was getting quite edgy - small things were starting to bug me, and in particular the behaviour of the riders around us. On rider had the cheek to pat me on the bum to get me to move out of the way, so he could follow the wheel I was on. If I had something to throw at him I would have. I was pretty sure I could ride away from him if he decided to chase me. At least these incidents were gobbling up time, and shortly afterwards we pulled into water point one.

I had my usual, Craig had nothing, and we were off up the first climb of the day. We did ride away from the bum patter, and a lot of other riders, up that hill. A short, fast descent through a cow field, and we were back on a district road. It was times like this that I am extremely glad I ride a dual suspension bike - the road surface was awful - very rough and uneven. Thinking of some riders we knew who rode hardtails brought smiles to our faces!

We now found ourselves in a good looking group that contained several people we knew, amongst them Erica Green (our coach from DaisyWay Coaching Systems). She took one look at my scrapes and grazes and recommended that I attend a skills workshop she was hosting after the Epic - so rude! After several kilometers in the bunch, both Craig and I were getting restless, and on a short little hill just rode away from the bunch. We were now approaching the big climb, and wanted to keep the gap in order to get a head start. We pushed quite hard and before long could barely see the bunch. We rode past the Lighthouse Cottage and were greeted with cries of support and encouragement.

At the base of the climb was water point two, and we quickly restocked with fluid, and then set out on the climb. We know this climb quite well, and so rode rather intelligently up it. I was suffering quite a bit, but Craig did a great job of setting a tempo that I could keep up with. I had to get off and push several times - the power just wasn't there on the steep bits anymore, but we didn't loose too much time. The climb was long and incredibly hot, not a breath of wind, and airless. The sweat was pouring off of me.

On the long, fast, and quite technical descent we caught those riders who we just couldn't catch on the climb. Not a single rider passed us going up or down, which gave us both a warm and fuzzy feeling!

Approaching the waterpoint - courtesy of Peter Wright

Approaching the waterpoint - courtesy of Peter Wright

Water point three awaited us, and it was now possible to spot more and more familiar faces in the crowd. I ran around like a headless chicken - getting juice and snacks - hoping something would give me legs to get to the end of the stage. Back on the tar, I was gritting my teeth, hanging on to the bunch for dear life - it was taking an enormous amount of effort to stay in the bunch. Looking back, it wasn't that my legs were bad, it was just the pace we were going at.

As we left the tar, our supporters suprised us with a rare appearance, and seemed to be having a great time. The cheering and encouragement was enough to give us both a second (or third or forth) wind, and yet again we road away from our bunch, in search of faster companions. Finally, I was starting to feel good - it had only taken me 4 hours of pain and suffering to get to this point, but now I was ready.

Russell working hard - bike related

Russell working hard - not bike related

We settled into a comfortable, yet fast pace with our new cycling buddies, and whizzed through the town of Stanford. For the second time that day I was grateful for my full suspension bike. The road from Stanford to Wortelgat is atrocious! It is a dirt rode with severe corrugations from side to side, in soft sand. There is no line. You can choose the smaller corrugations and deal with the sand, or face having your bones rattled loose on the larger corrugations. Like Paris-Roubaix, the best technique seemed to be to ride as fast as possible and keep the pace high.

We were making good progress when disaster struck. Craig got a puncture. Not a puncture that takes 5 minutes to go flat, one that goes from fully inflated to nothing in about two tenths of a second. I was right behind Craig, and we put a gator and tube in as quickly as possible, all the time cursing our bad luck - if we could have hung on to that bunch we would have had a great finishing time. After loosing about 7 minutes and seeing about 20 teams go past us we were back on the road.

The adrenalin of the puncture gave me a new found motivation, and for the first time that day I went to the front to set the pace. Very soon we were catching and passing riders again. In retrospect I probably went a bit too hard, but I just wanted to get to the finish. In doing so, I started to kill Craig. What a nice way to thank him for looking after me all day!

Spectators waiting eagerly at the finish

We got to the end of the Wortelgat road, only to be greeted with more thick sand as we approached the Kleinrivier river mouth. The sand seemed to go on forever, and just when I was beginning to lose hope we popped out onto the beach. Any hopes of the riding being a bit easier on the beach were quickly dashed though.

Back on good old tar at the other end of the beach we motored the last 5kms towards the finish at the old Harbour. We were greeted with a good turn out of friends and spectators, and I could have sworn the announcer said something like "And here we have two of our top road cyclists in the Western Cape" - I checked behind me to see who he was talking about. Turns out it was us! We will excuse his exaggeration just this once, because it did feel quite good :)


The top road cyclists finished

Craig got a hero's welcome - many of his mates had made the effort to be at the finish, and I am glad we did well. For the second day in a row we finished 64th. That is 240 places higher than our stage 3 finish!

Craig and the predominantly female fan club

The wives had prepared some fantastic snacks yet again, and had bought us some champagne. We basked in the glory, and what might have been but for the puncture. Craig spent the next half an hour signing autographs for all his fans.

The riders

The bikes

The mechanic

The wives

I am not sure if it was something I ate, or if it was the yogurt of stage 4 getting its revenge, or just the efforts of the day, but I suddenly didn't feel well. My stomach was aching and churning. I had to get home (the holiday home) as soon as possible.

After lots of TLC, drugs (Bonte's charcoal tablets, and Yolanda's anti-cramp tablets) and a bath I felt a little better, although by no means 100%. That afternoon's massage session was one of the tougher ones all week for both Craig and I. Niki found a spot on both of Craig's legs that got him to squeal, and Karen got me to wince several times as she dug her elbow into my thigh!

South Africans on the top step of the podium

We were joined by some of the Hermanus locals for supper (they watched as Craig and I polished of two well laden plates), and the company was a welcome change. Not that I was getting tired of Craig or anything ;)

We slept at home that night, and after some late night mechanical issues, were soon fast asleep. I almost missed the sound of Johan and his partner, and the endless sounds of tents being unzipped and rezipped all night long. At least I had a toilet near by.

STG 6 49. Cat, 64. GC

1 comment :

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