Over a month without a post! It’s been a rough few weeks with little wine appreciation and chronic sinusitis …
It all started off with the Cape Epic www.cape-epic.com . The longest and toughest staged mountain bike race in the world; 8 days, 800km and 16km of vertical climbing. In the past the race started in Knysna and finished in Cape Town with lots of dirt road riding. In 2009 the format changed and we started in Gordons Bay and did a loop back to Lourensford. The route was also designed with the professional rider in mind and there was more technical single track and less municipal roads this year. In fact, each year the focus seems to shift further away from the social rider in the Epic becoming the Tour-de-France of mountain biking. I wouldn’t consider myself an extreme sportsman but do enjoy Mountain biking and trail running immensely. My father has done the Cape Epic 3 times, twice with my sister. Jealousy aside it’s not easy getting an entry in to the Epic, so when the opportunity came up it was too hard to resist.
Three months of training 10-14 hours per week was probably the toughest part of the exercise; especially when most of this was done early mornings before work and over much of the weekend. Late night ‘wine tastings’ had to unfortunately take a backseat. It all paid off however as I felt strong during the race, even picking up more fitness throughout.
Team Good Genes
Stage 1 (after the prologue on table mountain) was to be the hardest leg and even the professionals took far longer than anticipated; 120km with almost 3km of vertical climbing with the killer blow for many being an 8km climb up Groenlandberg from Elgin over to Villiersdorp. This all in 40 degree heat! A testing stage for my father who ended up being one of the many riders in the medic tent at the end of the day with dehydration. Being the second oldest rider of the 1200 in the field, it was an extreme privilege riding with him. Stage 1 saw more IV drips administered than on all the days in 2008 combined! The 9 hours on the saddle didn’t infer too much damage however and we were back on the starting line at 6:30 the next day
Another tough leg was stage3 from Villiersdorp to Greyton. This consisted of a 5km portage climb, with our bikes of course, up over a mountain. The pro riders took around 50min for this section, whilst some took 2 hours. The average guy would struggle to hike this on a good day; we dragged and carried our 15kilo bikes up over it.
The Epic came to a tragic and unfortunate end for team ‘Good Genes’. My father picked up a bug on the second last night. When 1200 riders are living on top of one another in tents and bodies are pushed to their limits, the potential to contract a virus is increased dramatically. So he was unable to complete stage 6 and I continued on my own. Later that night I picked up the bug too. In two minds, I started the short final leg from Oak Valley to Lourensford but after an hour found myself literally last. Even Breyton Paulse (ex Springbok Winger) who had been struggling at the back the entire race, past me. Lack of energy, and a massive fever finally lead to me being picked up by the sweeper vehicle, straight for the medic tent. 4 weeks later and I am still sick with chronic sinusitis…
Final thoughts about my epic experience? I believe that one has to be slightly ‘cooked’ to enjoy the Epic. For many the week consists of taking precious work-leave to ride for 8 hours a day, shower, eat and finally sleep. All to get up and do it again the following day. No holiday. The scenery through the Western Cape is sheer delight and one feels special to ride on routes that are never open to the public. The rider camaraderie is amazing, from the competitive pro riders to the friendly banter within the back markers.
Due to the availability of only instant coffee by the caterers and lack of drinkable wine, I decided to take the week off from my two great vices. Interestingly enough I survived!