Thursday, 8 April 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 19:45 | No comments

Cape Epic - Stage One


Date: 21 March 2010
Start/Finish: Diemersfontein to Ceres
Distance: 117km
Climbing: 2190m



For the second year running, the Epic started in my backyard (I have a very big back yard, and Wellington is right on the edge, near the fence). Our first destination - Ceres. As far as first stages go, this one was going to be a toughie. Not because there were any serious climbs, but just the length, the heat and the terrain.

The Roadie and I
The Roadie and I got to the start line with plenty of time to spare, and found ourselves two thirds of the way down in the start chute. We weren't worried, we were going to take it easy and have a good time. It was here that we met our first nemesis - the Girl in Pink (and her partner, the Guy in Pink). Normally, I wouldn't bat an eyelid - these riders usually don't make good nemesis material, but with the Roadie fresh from a bender and on a mountain bike every rider was a threat.

The massive start chute
At 9am the 2010 Cape Epic got underway, and about 5 minutes later so did we. We had discussed our strategy several times, and the it was a simple one. I would follow the Roadie, and he in turn would ride conservatively. In that first hour I got quite worried about my levels of fitness - I was having to work hard (again - why to all my partners insist on riding like the clappers in the first hour). Thankfully, I was able to make up ground and rest a little on the downhills - the Roadie is absolutely useless when it comes to technical descents. On one such descent, with only one ridable line I heard this racket behind me and naturally assumed it was some hardcore downhiller having some fun riding off line through all the rocks and ruts. Imagine my surprise when the Roadie came screaming past me in what can only be called a crash in slow motion. There was no way he had any say in where the bike was going. He was a passenger riding over every obstacle in his way. Crude, but quite an effective way to get down a hill. I was to see this technique repeated over and over gone throughout the course of the Epic.

After messing around in the vineyards of Wellington, we finally made the climb up to Bain's Kloof Pass and the Roadies hallowed turf - tar. A quick stop at the water point for some snacks and juice and we were off. Once again I was having to bust a lung to keep up. We made good progress on the tar, and passed several groups of riders on the descent. What a great pass to ride. I have been threatening for years and years to ride Bain's Kloof Pass on my bike, and having total road closure made it even better.

At the bottom of the pass we made a sharp left onto a gravel farm road, heading away from Ceres. It was on this stretch that the Roadie encountered his kryptonite - sand. We had also been going for roughly 3 hours which seemed to be the Roadie's limit. The wheels began to fall off, and we had to drop out of the group we were riding with. We settled into a new tempo, and eventually, after several more sandy sections, made it to the next water point. My Dad and Yolanda were there cheering us on. The support, snacks and juice gave the Roadie a bit of a lift, but 500m later the wheels fell off completely.

First water point
It seemed that the flat island dwelling Roadie had another weakness - hills. We limped up the climb, feeling the full intensity of the Cape sun baking down on us. Slowly but surely, for the first time that day, riders started to pass us. A trickle at first, but by the time we got to the top of the climb it was a steady flow. The Roadie's legs were quivering as the cramps set in, and every rise became a major obstacle. The cricket players passed us, followed by the rugby players, and then the pretty boy, and finally, the coach.

The Roadie struggled on, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, gritting his teeth and groaning under his breath (much like Julian's moan). Just as it looked like he was coming right, Dr Evil played his trump card, and chucked in 7kms of railway line. The first kilometer went ok, and we caught a couple of the riders that had passed us. We hooked onto the back of a "train" of riders for a few minutes before the Roadie popped. I think it was the sight of the Girl in Pink on the front driving the train and riding away from the guys that did it for the Roadie. The remainder of the 6kms were spent either walking or riding slowly. Nothing I said would get the Roadie motivated to ride, and I had visions of us missing the cut off. Until the Roadie spotted a photographer. He was on his bike in a flash, game face on, and rode the 50m past the photographer like a Paris-Roubaix champ! If only I could have organised photographers all along the railway line at 50m intervals...

Not sure who is happier
We finally emerged from the railway track, bodies battered, legs aching, moral destroyed. I helped the Roadie over the last small hill of the day (on tar), down the other side and to the finish. Just to make sure the Roadie was completely destroyed, Dr Evil had thrown in some more sand in the lead up to the finish line. I was worried that we might end up walking over the finish line. But we didn't. We had survived, only just.

Still looks better than the tent accommodation
If the Roadie thought the pain and suffering was over for the day, he was in for a special surprise - Stage 1 had been the warm up. The real torture awaited in the form of the massage. Funny for his partner and other spectators, excruciatingly painful for him.

STG 1 227. Cat
           341. GC
           7:55.26,2
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