Prologue Time Trial: 27km
A fast short ride, mostly on single track. We finished about 65th position
Stage 1: 123km
Today was very hot which just added fuel to the fire.
We were in B-Batch at the start and managed to make our way up a little, into A.
Around the 35km mark, John was on the front of our group pulling like a machine, I called to him to take it easy as it is a long day.
After the second water point at 48km, there was a monster climb with some steep push bike sections – it was here that John struggled. So we took it easier, eat, drink etc…. get the energy levels back up. Towards the 80km mark John recovered to the extent that no more teams were passing us and did fantastically to hang in there.
Having felt good, it became an easier day for me, however I still felt quite tired coming into the finish line.
I think for most competitors the Bite has been taken out their Bark, and hopefully things will mellow out now and we have a merry ride here onwards….
Stage 2: 115km
Today went a lot smoother, John struggled in the first third and so we slowed down for half an hour and let some teams go past…. We then settled into a nice rhythm for the rest of the ride. With the cloud cover and minimal elevation, the days riding could be described as rather pleasant. A good thing considering tomorrow is the mother of all Epic days- a record 143km with 2900m elevation gain.
Stage 3: 143km
Surprisingly today was our best day so far. Think John has worked out the ‘formula’ in this endurance race – ‘Steady wins the Game’ & manage your energy levels by eating and drinking continuously throughout the ride and not only when you feel like it. It was so lekker to ride a consistent pace – this is the John I know. Yes it was hot and the climbs big and terrain gnarly but when you dealing with this adversity better than the other teams around you, it suddenly becomes enjoyable. So to sum up our feeling of the Cape-Epics big day – We loved it….
We finished 53 overall today, which brings us from 73 position to 65 for 4 days racing.
Stage 4: 109km
After 15km, we were greeted with the first major climb – rocky and steep – unrideable, that suited us. Reaching the summit we were comfortable, positioned between 50 & 60. Some 20km’s of rocky jeep track and we arrived at the monster climb of the day, 500m elev gain. All was well, except upon descending down a treacherous rock strewn Jeep track, John broke his rear axle and from there, we went backwards – we had no choice but to continue. John struggled with the added resistance, to help I offered my shirt back-pocket for a tow and also ran behind, pushing him on the steep hills. Before we crossed the finish line, sadly about 30teams had passed us. Its just started pouring rain, which will make tomorrow interesting Oh the joys of camping…. Finished 76th today and so now placed 67th after 5 days racing.
John did really well today to ride a broken bicycle for 40km.
Stage 5: 119km
was truly an adventure today – rain and freezing on the mountain tops. The strong winds and wet gear made the wind chill a huge factor to contend with, besides the ‘river-like’ single track – muddy and slippery. What could one do? exactly. “We’re all in this together, so lets make the most of these testing condition”.
At one stage I thought the organisers might detour us from the designated route with all the ‘hardships’ riders were dealing with. But that’s because I forgot the Cape-Epic is not about getting all riders across the finish line but that its the toughest bike stage race in the World and what a perfect setup for the Race to see true this Motto.
John and I had only one major incident in today’s ride – John descended down into a muddy bog, river crossing, far to speedily. He wiped out spectacularly, and myself following, my front wheel tracking in a rutt, a collision was inevitable. Only to be avoided if I self induced a wipe-out by throwing my weight in the opposite direction. My helmet cushioned the impact as my head struck a tree and my left shoulder clipped another. Making use of the adrenalin rush into the blood, we pushed the next couple of Kilometres. Apart from some minor bruising, we were quite fortunate to have avoided serious injury to bike & body.
Our ride had a happy ending when we crossed the finish line in 41st and with that, we have made it into the top 50 overall.
Apart from hitting the wall with 10km to go, John had a good day. I have no doubt that this Epic race will hold him in good stead going forward with his sporting career – both physically (how far he can push his body) and mentally (never give up).
Stage 6: 84km
What a cracker of a day for us, sweetened by the most perfect cycling weather.
As we had done everyday, we checked into B-batch 20min before the start. Except this time, the marshal at the entrance said “I’m sorry your team number is not on this list”. After a few exchange of words, insisting it has to be, she suggested we try A-batch. A couple of minutes later, we were suddenly amongst the ‘Big Boys’, looking back at our fellow B-batch Bandido – what a treat, felt like we were on the ‘premium package’.
The first 6km of farm roads and single track was excluded due to the wetness of yesterdays storm. This mean’t, having briefly passed through the little town of Grabouw, we immediately faced the first big climb of the day sooner than expected – zig zagging skywards up the switch-backs to crest the Nuweberg at 1000m elevation.
With most a little weary from yesterdays Herculean effort, we managed to spring-boarded off the slower pace on the climb.
Upon descending, there in the distance awaited the next big climb – Groenlandberg. Equally challenging, we found a lovely rhythm on the climb. Shortly after summiting, at the halfway mark, my rear derailleur cable snapped and that was the end of my gear choice of my 10 speed cluster at the back. Having ‘fresh legs’, I thought lets see how broken you can get in the next 40km. Irritated by this misdemeanour, I took out my frustration by attacking every climb with a vengeance, and the hills too steep for my single speed – I ran up, pushing my bike – which actually worked in my favour as it was quicker (although not efficient from an energy exertion perspective), but that didn’t matter as the last stage tomorrow (64km – 1350m elev) is a little one compared to what we have ridden so far.
The last 5km of single track was awesome, sweeping turns through forest, all the way down to the finish.
Thanks to John for a lovely ride today.
We crossed the finish line in our best position to date – 39th overall – as I said, what a cracker of a day….
Final Stage 7 update: 64km
08h30 start, what a treat.
There was a buzz in the air, you could feel everyone was already on a high as the end was near and this final stage would only be half as challenging as the others, due to half the distance (64km) & half the elevation (1350m) – or so we thought….
The problem that became with a shorter stage is that the pace increases two-fold – you would swear everyone in A-batch was going for the Stage win.
Starting in A-batch again, allowed us to use the momentum of the peloton to gain a good position for the climbs. We made good work of the Gamtouw Pass, a compulsory portage section, up & over an old wagon Trail the Voortrekkers once used – from that vantage point I could see the entire ‘horse-shoe’ of False Bay and down below was magnificent Lourensford. This was the first time I allowed myself to think of crossing the finish line, as the risks are high with anything going wrong – from something as simple as an upset stomach, or a major mechanical enroute….
With 10km to go – cruising along a piece of singletrack – lack of concentration – my pedal clipped a stump – I went down in a heap which resulted in an injury to my left ribs.
Riding past thousands of spectators lining the finish corridor, alongside my ‘Change a Life’ athlete – John Ntuli, having ridden 8 days, 781km, climbed Everest twice (16300m),
made for a very special moment.
I believe this ‘Epic’ experience will make John a stronger athlete which he will hopefully carry that to the other CAL Zulus training for Multisport in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Because what he perceived to be hard in cycling back home, will now seem easy….
Redefining your limits is always a good thing.
We finished 41st today, which gave us a position of 45 overall for the Absa Cape-Epic
Thank you to John for a great ride, which I really enjoyed.
But all the better, I will do whatever it takes cheapest college essays to see my dreams fulfilled