Monday 15 June 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:00 | 1 comment

Epic 2009 - Stage 5

Date: 26 March 2009
Start/Finish: Greyton to Oak Valley
Distance: 111km
Climbing: 2233m
Cut-off time: 17:00

Stage 5 would see us leaving Greyton, and heading off to Grabouw. The end was in sight, and we were heading home. After the terrible adventure in and around the hills of Greyton, I was more than glad to leaving.

Almost time to start the stage - the chopper is warming up

As we were entering the food tent for breakfast there was a guy dishing out little pieces of paper. Always keen to see if we had won something for free, each cyclist read the little piece of paper. No prizes, but just some words of encouragement like "God is with you". Unfortunately, after 4 tough stages most cyclists had become quite cynical, and more than one rider wondered aloud if God was going to help push up the hills. Another indicator of the mood of the race was the near silence people ate their breakfast in. I was focused - trying to subtly match Craig in terms of quantity, a task I realised that was certainly easier on paper. To put it bluntly, Craig eats a lot. I am now convinced he is a cross between a human, a cow and hamster - he is able to eat enough to fill his seven stomachs, and then still has some space to stash some extra food for later in his cheeks! No wonder the Epic is running at a loss - Craig is eating all the profit. I was quite proud of myself - I though I had been able to match him in quantity, although I was completely stuffed. The wind was taken out of my sails when Craig then went back for a plate of seconds - bigger than the first!

Heading out of town

Anyway - back to the race. We were in for another fast start out of town, and I was hoping that they would get the route right this time around - I didn't want to get the scenic tour of Greyton again. As expected, we set off quite quickly, although in comparison to the previous day's first hour, it felt like we were out on a leisurely ride, with 1200 of our closest buddies. Before long, we turned off the tar, and headed towards the mountains. Craig was setting a nice pace, and I was tucked in behind him, feeling the effects of my big breakfast!

We made good progress, and got to the bottom of the first climb with the usual faces around us - the faffers were just behind us, and Auric Auto were just ahead of us. Another team that had forced it's way onto my list of teams we had to beat was Benedikt's. We had completely written them off in the first couple of stages, but they were getting stronger and stronger - particularly in the early parts of a stage, and if the stage was a short one, we would be in for some trouble trying to beat them. Benedikt's girlfriend Sarah was in a battle for third place in the ladies section, and it was great to offer her some support as we caught and passed her each morning.

Sarah - doing a last minute tyre pressure check

The first climb had us heading up towards some UFO like tower object thing - apparently it is well known in the area. Craig and I climbed like demons, and found ourselves passing people left right and center. The climb suited our riding style, and we could both power up. I kept half an eye out for the UFO tower thingy, but the hills were covered in some low cloud, and I wasn't quite sure where I was supposed to be looking. The end result was that I missed it completely. After a nice fast downhill, we found ourselves back on the valley floor, heading towards Botrivier. We had some hills to get over before we got there however.

Matching pants

Formula One repairs!

We had hooked up with a nice bunch, although they were probably going a little faster than both Craig and I would have liked. At the bottom of the next climb we waved goodbye to the bunch, and climbed up the hill at our own pace. For the first time so far at this year's Epic my bike was giving me hassles - we had treated the bikes to a service the previous day, with the result that now my bike was struggling to change into the small blade on the front - a vital requirement when climbing some of these hills. Some fancy footwork was required to convince the chain to drop down to the small chain blade, and at the next water point I fixed the problem - half a turn of the end stop screw and everything was back in business. That was the sum total of my mechanical issues. After a quick wave to the supporters, and some coke and Powerade, we were back on the bikes. I think my mechanical change would have put a Formula One team to shame!

Evidence that Craig does in fact have hamster cheeks - that is some breakfast

Leaving the water point - bike fixed and all snacked up

Craig - making the mistake of letting me go in front

We were on the sort of terrain that I love - long gradual climbs and descents on wide open roads. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the middle of no man's land - there were no riders we could hook onto and share the work load. For the first time that day, I went to the front and took a turn, letting Craig take a bit of a breather. However, this happened to coincide with my stomach starting to digest the monster breakfast that I had had earlier, with rather unpleasant results, particularly for Craig! The end result being that my turn on the front was limited to about 5 minutes, before I was relegated to the back!

We made good progress - riding along the railway line, as we headed towards Botrivier. This was the same part of the route as the race that Craig won here, about 4 months earlier, and I was struggling to keep up with him on the downhills. Before long, we arrived in Botrivier, with the final water point of the day. Once again, our spectators were there, cheering us on. It is hard not to feel inspired to give a little extra when seeing and hearing them.

Botrivier - still feeling good

Ahead of us lay the old pass to Houw Hoek, and some ups and downs in a Cape Nature Conservation area. We made good progress up the old pass - Craig setting the pace, as we climbed through the fynbos in the midday heat. It was hot and airless up the climb, with the sun baking down on us - the cold coke and water of the previous water point a distant memory. We got to the top of the climb, and for once I regretted not looking at the stage profile - I expected that to be it for the day, and for nice flowing single track to take us to the finish. How misinformed I was. We had several short sharp leg killing, lung busting climbs ahead of us - some of them too steep to ride (although they are quite ridable if you didn't already have 100kms in your legs).

Team Spot on Bevan approaching tent city

We were passing people, and being passed - it was difficult to get a good idea of what a good pace was, we would feel good passing riders, only for our egos to take a knock when we got passed. The only thing keeping us going was the lure of the singletrack at OakValley. I half expected to see it around every corner, only to be greeted with yet another killer climb. Eventually the mythical single track appeared, and all the pain and suffering seemed worth it - this was pure mountain bike bliss. Craig was off like a rat up a drain pipe - leaving me for dead, and I was having to work hard just to keep in touch, but enjoying every second of it.

Stage 5 almost finished


After one of the cruelest detours in cycling history - we practically rode through the camp, out the other side, before turning back towards the camp - we crossed the finish line. I really enjoyed this stage - it had been tough, but good. We rode well together, and the big breakfast had certainly helped. And home was just a stone's throw away.

Where's the coke?

A good day at the Epic

Jayne had left us, to be replaced by Wendy, and we spent the afternoon chilling, getting massaged, eating, and cheering in the riders. All in all, a great day at the Epic.

Wendy, sorting out my legs

Highlights of the day: Singletrack, singletrack, singletrack
Lowlights of the day: The obscured UFO and the soul crushing finish.

GC 89 Cat 65 5:48.33,5
Total Time