Thursday 16 April 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 11:43 | No comments

Epic 2009 - Stage 2

Date: 23 March 2009
Start/Finish: Villiersdorp
Distance: 110km
Climbing: 1527m
Cut-off time: 17:00

As day 2 of the Cape Epic dawned on us, things felt a little strange. Today was a circular route around Villiersdorp, and our first introduction into what some people were calling the "Great Circle Route". On the one hand it was nice not having to pack all my worldly Epic possessions into the big black bag. On the other hand, we were going to race for 6 hours and end up back where we started. Where is the sense of achievement in that? I was quite happy to rather jog around the school athletics track and head back to my tent for another hour or two of sleep.

The flat lands, surrounded by hills - perfect for an Epic stage

The leaders flying through the Hot Spot

After the slight wobble of the previous stage, we were going to take it "easy" today. As easy as one can when facing 110kms with 1572m of climbing. To add to our issues - Craig didn't have his heart rate monitor strap with him, so determining "easy" wasn't going to be that easy.

The "bedrooms" in Villiersdorp

As usual, the backup crew of Yolanda and Bonte arrived at our tents just before the start. It is always encouraging seeing some friendly faces. To get the heart rate monitor strap to Craig, they were going to have to break some speed records in order to get back to meet us at the second checkpoint at 52kms, which happened to be at the oldest unrestored farmhouse in South Africa, Brandvlei Cellar.

The "bathroom"

We had managed to hang on to our C seeding, clearly we were not the only riders who suffered yesterday. We thought this would also help us out with our "easy" day. At 7am the gun went off, and we found ourselves heading out of town on the tar road. As usual, the pace was high with people jostling for position. I had my first scare of the race and afterwards realised just how lucky I was. I was following Craig on the left edge of the road when the road narrowed. Being on mountain bikes, this was no problem to Craig, and he just continued straight ahead onto the gravel. Seemed like a good plan, and I followed. Little did I know that on my left hand side, slightly behind me was a mountain bike who did really like Craig's plan, and so tried to squeeze into the bunch to avoid the gravel by steering right. Into me. Our handle bars locked and we both came crashing down. We were probably doing about 30km/h at the time. Fortunately, I mostly fell on him and his bike, and didn't end up loosing too much skin. I did take quite a knock to my knee, elbow and shoulder though. The other rider jumped up without saying a word, got on his bike and rode away. I taught him a couple of choice Afrikaans swear words that I won't repeat here. Needless to say, he went straight to the top of my list of people to beat!

The Epic teaches the art of queuing

I was a little worried about the knock to my knee, especially after all drama it had been through in the last 8 months. Thankfully, the riding was tough enough to keep my mind occupied. Almost as soon as we turned off the tar onto the dirt riders started falling - we were riding across some badly eroded ground, and riders were losing their front wheels in ditches and holes. Several riders broke collar bones and wrists there. Thankfully, there were enough bodies lying on the ground to act as warning beacons when we came through that we escaped unscathed.

Francois, and every one's favorite German - Mike Mike

I made a discovery that would become a habit throughout the rest of the Epic. Breakfast is usually a dull affair consisting of trying to cram as much food into your body as you can stomach, and then having a little more. No one really eats breakfast because they are hungry (except possibly Craig). You eat breakfast so that in 6 hours time you won't hit the wall and bonk completely. After a large bowl of oats, two pieces of toast with scrambled eggs, tomato and cheese, and some fruit juice I was stuffed. But Craig was still tucking into his second serving of eggs on toast. I was worried. What if I ran out of energy? There was no way Craig would with all that food in his stomach. So I took a banana for the ride. After about an hour of moderate suffering I thought it was time to try the banana. While I didn't feel an immediate effect, it was enough to take my mind off the riding, and get rid of the taste of energy drink in my mouth. The fact that I had good legs all day - not sure if the banana was responsible, but I wasn't going to fiddle with something that worked. So, for the rest of the Epic I would have a banana after about an hour of riding - sometimes sooner if I was struggling.

Hanging onto the back of the bunch - my second home

Etienne and Cillie had started with us in C, but very quickly rode away from us on the hills. What a surprise to look back over our shoulders after the first water point to see them pedaling like crazy to try to rejoin the nice little bunch we were in. As they said - they like to get value out of their stops - they paid good money to enjoy the free coke and energade.

The section between water point one and two was flat and fast, and dusty. I think I put on a kilo from all the dust I ate that morning. I struggled with the pace, and suffered quite a bit - definitely one of the tougher sections of the stage for me. The only plus was that the kilometers were flying by. Before long we reached the MTN Hot Spot and spectator point where our supporters and fans had been eagerly waiting for us. So eager in fact that they had been wine tasting. At nine in the morning. This was also the spot where Bonte was going to give Craig his heart rate monitor strap. Like someone doing an illicit drug deal, she sneakily stuck out a hand and passed the strap. A misspent youth in Roosevelt Park, observing the locals in Sea Point, some tips from Hawstone - who knows? But certainly effective - no one saw a thing.

Strap exchange done - off to the next water point

It wasn't long before we made the next water point, and even though Craig had to pretty much get undressed to put the heart rate monitor strap on, and I needed a toilet break, we once again left the water point ahead of the faffers. The daily highlight of the 2nd water point each day was the lube guy. He would apply a generous spray of lube to our chains, and somehow, after that, the bike would feel like new. Any niggles and problems, either bike or rider related, seemed to vanish.

As tough as the climbs were today, there was an even tougher obstacle in store for us. Sand. It is like riding through treacle - sucking your bike deeper and deeper, and sapping your legs of energy. Getting off and pushing isn't much easier. That's if you can't ride through it. The cycling gods had decided to be kind to me after my poor showing of sand riding at the Argus MTB ride, and somehow my sand skills were in tip top shape. I actually enjoyed the sandy sections - mini challenges every couple of hundred meters. Whether it was me, the tyres, the bike setup I don't know. But together it worked perfectly.

Once the sand had drained the riders both physically and mentally, the hills started. Most of it was ridable, but every know and then there would be a bit a little too steep, or a little too rocky, and the only option was to hop off and push. It was on the top of these sections where the photographers lurked:

This was posted here - famous at last!
"A rider checks that all of his ducklings are following close behind."

The tricky descent made all the climbing worth it, and compared to yesterday, Craig enjoyed this downhill. The only downside was the traffic we bumped into along the way. I am no downhill expert, but even I was going faster than some of these roadies. Talking of which, I hadn't seen my friend from this morning, and all signs were indicating that we were ahead. Good!

Done - wasn't too bad

Glad it's over though

To show that the pros are human too, we passed one of the riders from the Bulls second team walking, smashed front wheel in hand. The obsession with light weight components perhaps not well suited to the tough terrain in the Villiersdorp valley. That pro still finished ahead of us - his partner had gone in search of a wheel, ridden back to him, and then they both came flying past us as if we were stationary. Perhaps they aren't human afterall.

M-u-s-t h-a-v-e c-o-k-e !!

The route now joined the district road before the last climb of the day. This was all old hat to us as we had finished the stage from Malmesbury to Villiersdorp in 2007 along this same route. In true Epic style, we were going to climb up to a cell phone tower that overlooked Villiersdorp. Through a cow patch. Craig was being a policeman again today, as I set the pace along the wide dirt roads towards the climb. The faffers were ahead of us and putting distance into us all the time. Thankfully, there was one more water point, and we were sure we could erase the time deficit there. Another highlight of each stage was trying to spot Frank at the water points. Today he was at water point 3.

The red team (team faffers) got one back on us today

We got to the bottom of the last climb together with Etienne and Cillie, but they were not going to wait around and flew off up the hill. We set a good tempo, and climbed well. By now the sun was baking down on us, and there wasn't a breath of wind to cool us down. We got to the top a couple of minutes behind the competition, but made up some time on the descent until we caught up with a mixed team. With the faffers in sight, riding like men possessed, we could do nothing but wait for the mixed team, eventually finishing a minute or so behind them. 2-1 to them.

Mother and son - I think is smelt a bit - notice the gap ;)

Again, our superb backup crew were on hand to cheer us in, give us our recovery drinks, and listen to the stories. Our bikes again had performed flawlessly, and Francois was on hand to whisk them away for a wash and lube.

Speek from Maverick clowning around and supporting

Bonte reflecting, waiting for her cousin Derek.

The rest of the afternoon was spent eating (same principle as breakfast - eat as much as you can, and then some more), drinking (rehydrate for the next day), relaxing and having Jayne attend to the aches and pains from the days racing.

We turned the pavement into a massage, dining and relaxation area

My turn for Jayne to fix the aches and pains (with Craig napping in the background)

Highlights of the day: The awesome downhill, Bonte's sneaky strap handover, SAND
Lowlights of the day: The crash, my sore knee, losing out to the faffers

Nope - not dead. Just having a nap.

Feet up, compression pants on, a newspaper to read. Perfect

GC 126 Cat 88 5:39.21,7
Total Time

Derek and Cliff made it - 2 down.



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