Friday 9 May 2008

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:40 | 2 comments

Cape Epic - Stage 8

The final morning of the 2008 Cape Epic dawned on us in Oak Valley, and although the organisers had given us an extra hour and a half to sleep in and relax, most people were up by 5am anyway. It is quite hard to break a routine that you have worked so hard to perfect.

Looking tired

For the last time we queued for breakfast, queued for the toilets, queued to get our bikes out the bike park, and Craig queued for the bum repair doctor. The mood around tent town was quite varied, some people were quite ecstatic at almost being finished, others a little sad that the adventure was almost over. Generally, people were still nervous - it might only be 60kms to the finish, but a lot can happen that might be race-ending.

An hour and a half and it is still a rush!

It was quite hard to ignore the profile today when you are riding in areas you know quite well. Today was going to be the most climbing per kilometer traveled of the entire Cape Epic - 1760m in 68km, over some hills that in the past had almost brought me to tears. Lourensford seemed so close, yet so far. Our plan for the day was to adopt the previous day's "no-plan-but-race-as-hard-as-we-can-up-the-initial-hills" plan. As I was the one now struggling - I would be the pace setter.

There's the roadie again!

I had been in two minds about getting my bike seen to by the mechanics - it was only 60km - what could go possibly go wrong. I was more concerned about my legs. We really wanted to have another great day like the previous day's stage, but I was worried that it was just too short for me to get going.

Last start for 2008

For the last time, the wives came to see us off - when we saw them next we would be finished - we hoped. Finally, after 7 days of lurking in the lower seedings, our great ride had got us back to B. We would be racing our contemporaries today, not passing slower riders. As the start time approached, the casual and festive atmosphere dissipated, and the normal pre-race tension took over.

Words escape me

Right from the start we started climbing, and I pushed hard. With my heart pounding and my legs screaming we were making good progress. A couple of hair raising descents through apple orchids and vineyards kept us on our toes. We were going well - I set the pace going up, and Craig set the pace on the flats and downs. A couple of times I had to hop off on the really steep sections and push, but it didn't cost us too much time.

And we're off

Good bye tent town

By now my bike was starting to act up - gear changing had become a bit of a lottery, and it was starting to play on my mind. We had found a good bunch to ride up the rather steep Nuweberg climb with, and it was just a little bit easier following someone else's pace, than trying to set my own. I was suffering, but the climb would soon be over.

Going over the top of Nuweberg pass Craig disappeared down the other side, I am sure with a big smile on his face. Something didn't feel right though. Looking down, I could see my back wheel was quite soft. I had two options - stop and pump it immediately, or get to the bottom and get Craig to bomb it. I decided on the latter. With all my weight over the front wheel I made my way down the pass, all the time yelling for Craig to slow down. My already fragile mental state wasn't enjoying this.

At the bottom, Craig bombed the tyre, and everything seemed fine. We hadn't lost too much time. Shortly after entering some single track I could feel the back wheel playing up again. We stopped, and Craig took over. Out came the wheel, off came the tyre, in went a tube, back on went the tyre, and he used a bomb to pump it up. All this time I was a quivering wreck, fiddling with bits and pieces in my Camelbak.

By now were were quite well entrenched in the midfield, and what had promised to be some lovely ridable single track became a frustrating walk. Once the congestion cleared and we were back on the forest roads, I could see that the tyre hadn't seated in the rim properly. We had two choices. Stop and fix it now, or wait till the waterpoint just around the corner and visit the neutral service people. We decided to wait.

On entering the waterpoint I recognised several familiar faces, but was too frustrated and annoyed with my bad luck to put on a friendly face. While the Shimano mechanic was quite helpful, his pump was clearly showing signs of aging, and we struggled to get it to seal on the valve. Eventually after much improvisation we were able to pump the tyre super hard, and managed to get it to seat properly.

Back on the road, I tried to make up for all the delays, but I was really starting to suffer. Craig's encouragement, while appreciated, just couldn't get my legs to perform. We laboured on to the Gamtou Pass, where an enforced portage section awaited us down the national monument. What a welcome relief! I tried anything to get some power back in the legs - I took a Gu, and sucked down liters of juice. I just hoped we could make up some of the time we had lost.

At the bottom of the pass we had several kilometers of railway line to deal with. Like the corrugations on day 6 into Hermanus, our plan was to ride in the middle of the tracks, as fast as we could. Unfortunately our plan was foiled by a couple of slow riders who were just out for a leisurely ride.

My gears were now a total mess, but I had found that a combination of wiggling the levers, and a well timed thump usually got them to do what I wanted. I was going ok on the flats and downhills, but just did not have the legs on the hills which was frustrating for everyone. Craig was now paying me back, and had taken to pushing me up the hills. What a difference it made! This is the first time I have been pushed, and if I had known how good it was, I think I might have been doing this from day 1!

What is taking them so long - it's just 60kms??

We were approaching the ridiculous section through Vergelegen where we weren't allowed to overtake and so wanted to pass as many people as we could before then. For 980km, every other land owner doesn't have issues with a race coming through, but Vergelegen are worried about liablity etc, and so stipulated the no overtaking rule in a bid to make the race safer. You don't need to be overtaking someone to have an accident, as the poor Epic Day Tripper with the broken wrist can attest to.

We eventually got caught behind a mixed team in this section, and Craig was eager to sneak past. I really didn't want to be disqualified so close to the end, so I just bit my tongue and slotted in behind. Craig was even kind enough to push the lady in an effort to get them to go faster.

The gathering friends - all patiently awaiting our arrival

With the silly section almost over, and the finish just around the corner, disaster struck. Well, not really disaster, but just another incident to add to my frustration. My gear lever broke clean off and went flying into the bushes. I now could not change gears at all at the back, and was stuck in the easiest gear, which I suppose was quite fortunate. It just wasn't that fortunate when you wanted to go fast on the flats! Yet again, I grabbed onto Craig, and he did the pedaling for me.

We finished the Epic to the cheering and encouragement from the crowds, but the frustration of the day somewhat dampened what should have been a joyous occasion. It was great to see all the support from friends who had made the effort to come out and see us, and of course, from the wives. We went and shook Kevin Vermaak's hand as he gave us our medals. We had survived.

Even with our various incidents we managed to finish 104th after 9 days and 76th in our category.We had spent 50h42.31 sitting on a bicycle. We had experienced the highs and lows of Epic riding, almost to the extremes. And we are still speaking to each other.

I was quite relieved to see the Wielopolska sisters finish - I had heard that they had had an incident on one of the scary downhills, and it would have been a cruel twist of fate if it had been race ending.

Without the help, support and encouragement from our wives, this would have been far tougher than it already was. And I don't think we even knew half of the torment and anguish they went through. And a big thanks to Russell, who did a great job on the bikes (most of the time), and made our lives a lot easier, while keeping an eye on the ladies.

Plans are already underway for next year's Epic - we have some unfinished business to take care of. The hunt for sponsors has begun, and our training programs are in the process of being drawn up. I don't think I can wait till then though!

STG 8 82. Cat, 110. GC


  1. looney coo-coo. thats all i have to say...
    looney coo-coo bonkers!

    Dude. the two of you will have to stop sometime or other, or go for a sperm-donation and freeze those boys. I am sure this can not be good for the boys and their production statistics!

  2. Isn't it a bit weird worrying about other guys sperm?