Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:12 | No comments

Epic 2009 - Stage 6


Date: 27 March 2009
Start/Finish: Oak Valley
Distance: 86km
Climbing: 1546m


The thing about stage racing is that you never quite know what sort of legs you are going to wake up with the next morning. There are some indicators though, like if you have a good day and rode a little too hard because you felt quite strong, chances are that the following day is going to be a killer. That was my worry after Stage 5 for Stage 6.

Today's stage was another loopy affair in and around the forests of Grabouw. I really wasn't looking forward to the stage, and the only thing getting me through was the thought of some lovely singletrack in the forests of Lebanon and Oak Valley.


First water point - getting some lube

I was suffering from some saddle sores - nothing I hadn't had before, but still pretty uncomfortable. Thankfully, they only hurt for about 10 minutes once on the bike, because after about 10 minutes, my legs started aching more than the saddle sores, and I was able to completely forget about them.


Craig having a look at the bent link in his chain (and me having a rest)

As I suspected, my legs were nowhere, and the fast start out of town didn't do much to help me either. I was only too glad to turn off the tar, but my relief was short-lived as the mass start had seen us lose quite a lot of places, and we were now sitting way back in the traffic. To make matters worse, my awesome sand skills from a few days before had mysteriously deserted me, and I was riding like a 10 year old girl through the sand (wait - that's being unkind to 10 year old girls - I am sure they would have done a better job than me).


Having fun? Craig is, not sure about me!
(Race founder and director Kevin Vermaak on the right looking on)

The first hour of the race was filled with lots of waiting (for me) - Craig spent half of that time looking over his shoulder to see where I was. The short sharp hills that I usually love were killing my legs. I wasn't having fun. Luckily, after the first hour Craig started to slow - just enough that I could hang on to his wheel, and that is pretty much how we stayed for the rest of the day - Craig on the front, with me tucked in right behind.

The first half of the stage was spent climbing up short steep climbs with loose rocks and sand. We did get a few downhills to enjoy, but had been warned that some might be a little dangerous. Being the second last day of the Epic, we chose to walk the downhills, and each time we did, our choice would be justified when a random rider with bravery levels far outweighing his skills levels would come flying down the hill, misjudge an obstacle, and end up in a heap of grazed skin and shattered ego. Just goes to show - sometimes discretion is the better part of valour (I was just glad for the opportunity to rest as we walked down the hill!).


Fueled up and back on the go.

The funny thing was that, because of our (ie. my) bad start, it felt like we were passing people all day long. This ended up giving us the false impression that we were actually riding quite well, yet the people we were passing were riders that should never have been in front of us in the first place. The only reassurance that things weren't that bad was that we were still ahead of the faffers (funny story - Yolanda had foxed Etienne into taking an anti-histamine for a bee sting, and he blamed the tablet for making him weak).


Probably the only time I was at the front!

With the race now firmly in our backyard, it was great to spot many familiar faces in the crowds, and the encouragement and support did loads to lift my spirits. Occasionally there would be so many spectators at a check point that it would be hard to spot our dedicated supporters. The crazy screams of "Craig and Dane" usually gave them away though! I made sure to match Craig snack for snack today - I didn't want to feel any worse than I already did. It was at one of the waterpoints that Craig discovered Energade's Jelly Babies. Fifteen minutes after wolfing down a whole bag of EnerJellies, Craig was like a man possessed. Thankfully I had some Gu's stashed away for emergencies just like this, and had to gulp down two just to stay on level terms. At the next water point I made sure I grabbed a bag of EnerJellies as well - I wasn't going to let a supercharged Craig do that to me again!


Keeping an eye on Craig's snack intake

We eventually made it into the single track of Lebanon - our hearts almost sank as our favourite pair of mountain bikers who can't ride downhill (CycleLab MTB Racing Team - grr!) were just in front of us, with about a kilometer to go to the single track. I was not going to let them ruin the only enjoyable highlight of my day. They must have sensed my bad vibes, and pulled over to let us past. There is nothing quite like the single track at Lebanon - it has the perfect mix of flowing technical sections, gradient, surface etc. Just perfect!

My bubble was burst slightly - I thought I was doing a great job, hanging onto Craig's wheel, flying down the single track, when out of nowhere Brendan Stewart and Max Knox of DCM Chrome came flying past - they had had some awful luck all morning, puncturing every 10 kms. It was quite amazing to see how effortlessly and controlled they rode.

Craig had bent a link in his chain earlier in the day up on of the steep inclines, and the big worry was that the chain was going to break. As it was, he had to be quite careful not to put too much power into pedaling, as the chain was skipping and slipping quite a bit. Again, this helped me out a bit, and made my ride a little easier.

Going into the some of the singletrack on Oak Valley, I got stuck behind a mixed team, while Craig had managed to sneak ahead of them. DCM Chrome had punctured again, and once again they were behind me. I can't begin to explain how nervous they made me feel. When we eventually got out of the single track, I had hoped to pass the mixed team, only for my plans to be dashed - a steep uphill awaited us, and Craig was taking a bit of strain. DCM Chrome also decided to do the gentlemanly thing of pushing the lady up the hill, so I just settled down to ride behind them - there was no way I my legs would last a sustained effort to get away from the mixed team.


Last downhill before the finish

We eventually did lose the mixed team in some single track, and it was left to Team Spot On Bevan to dice it out with DCM Chrome (the sneaky bit was that we hadn't really told DCM Chrome that we were dicing), and in the home straight, in front of our adoring fans and supporters, we pulled of a daring coup as we jumped past DCM Chrome and held them off to the finish. So if anyone asks how our stage went, we can at least say we beat DCM Chrome, and have the pictures to prove it!




DCM Chrome eating our dust!

I haven't been so relieved to see the finish of a stage at the Epic in a long time. Today was a day I was glad to have behind me, and hopefully I would find some legs overnight for the final stage into Lourensford. My worst stage of 2009 by far.


Benedikt and partner were getting stronger and stronger


Benedikt was chuffed to have beaten us, although he finished behind us


Giving orders for the final bike wash and lube


Glad that it's over

Highlights of the day: Finishing the stage, beating DCM Chrome ;)
Lowlights of the day: The bit at the beginning, the bit in the middle, and the bit at the end.

Stage
GC 113 Cat 83 4:50.12,3
Total Time
35:08.26,9


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