The Queen Stage – the stage everybody was talking about. Potentially the toughest stage of the ABSA Cape Epic 2017. With 103 kilomters of riding and 2700 meters ascent mixed in with some incredibly rocky terrain most certainly made it look like this on paper. Stefan and I decided to go out and risk a little something from the moment the gun went off.
Stage 5 is going to be a fun one. Not an easy one but fun.” is what Kevin the race organiser said in the meeting yesterday and a hell lot of fun it was but it probably could have been even more if I hadn’t died twice today.
Right out of the gates the tank was empty – not ideal with 1000 meters of climbing in the first 25km but thanks to taking it easy and steady we could kind of still see the guys we usually ride with in the distance. After about 20km I started to feel a lot better and we enjoyed the hell out of a stage that had 34% single track. The bikes were dancing and so were our spirits until “boom” I died again at the 40km mark.
This one wasn’t fun. I was struggling on every little hill and my head went into sleep mode only to be woken again when hitting a tree with the handlebar and coming off the bike at KM60. A quick rush of adrenaline and suddenly I was wide awake. We flew through water point 3 with just a really quick refill of the bottles and I probably should not have mentioned to Stefan that I was feeling better as he apparently had the best legs of his Cape Epic yet and the race was on proper.
Those final 20km were probably some of the most joyful I’ve ever had on a bike. Flying past the other teams and flowing down some of the nicest single trails. Now the big question is – will we pay for it at the King Stage tomorrow? 103KM with 2700 meters of climbing.
We are 25km into Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic and my heart rate is near maxed out as today’s stage is not only one for good riding but also for race tactics. 2 kilometers ago we head to make the decision to ride up a climb with a group way faster than what we should be riding and therefore have a train to ride with in the long 5km flat bit to water point one or go easy on the climb but therefore face the headwinds on our own. It all sounds so nice and pretty but at this point we had already ridden 25 kilometers above our usual speed as it was a flat start to the stage.
Now I am sitting here with 5km to go until the first water point and while my pulse is beating through my eyeballs Stefan clearly has a moment of great legs and decides to attack the group ahead of us. He is on fire like a race horse chasing the carrot and while he is slowly closing the gap I decided to not yet throw in the towel but after a quick calculation of potential energy reserves I decided I can hang on by a thread until he catches the group. As he rides up to the rear wheel of the group I have this brief moment if relief and happiness. Just a split second though until Stefan pulls out to the right and decided to destroy this group as well….
It must be about 5km later that I finally regain vision and see other things than just dust and a wheel and we head on at top speed to water point 2 at KM60. A quick refill costs us our group but the following climbing and single trails – today’s stage is 112km with 2100 meters of climbing brings the other riders back in sight and with a strong push on the final climbs we pass another roughly 10-15 teams before descending into Oak Valley to finish an awesome day on the bike. The longest I’ve ever ridden on a MTB.
3 Stages left but with the King Stage still waiting for us!
„Good morning South Africa“ is my first thought as the sun rises over our camp before Stage 3 of Cape Epic. What a pleasant moment letting me forget that for a night I hated Dutch people. Well, young, ignorant Dutch people who have the need to tell each other how awesome they are until way past bedtime for everybody else.
With about 60 seconds to go my team mate Stefan looks and me and says „hey, the first 10km are fairly flat. Go out hard and try to stay with the front bunch of our batch“ and so the 10km turned into 15km way above planned speed with close to no vision. I have never inhaled that much dirt in such a short time.
From there on out it was a fantastic ride through South Africa with good pressure on the pedal, neither of us dying half way and our best stage finish so far after enjoying some seriously beautiful single trails throughout the day but let’s not forget or as Stefan says. So far it was all fun and easy, now Cape Epic begins. 112 kilometers tomorrow.
Stage 2 of Cape Epic 2017 will go down in the history books as the first stage in the history of the race to be shortened due to the severe conditions the past days. With up to 45 Celsius out on the course and more than 115 drop outs at yesterdays stage alone the only sensible decision race organisers could make.
There are those mountain bikers who say cycling uphill is the real deal and those who say cycling downhill is the real deal. Today both versions sucked. In the nicest, most terrible, fun, exhausting and arm cramping way….
“We are standing in line, shaking hands with a few of the riders we know, answering a last questions but the head doesn’t process anymore, the head is in the moment. It is 9:33:15 and we have exactly 3 minutes until the gun goes off for he toughest MTB stage race in the world. The ABSA Cape Epic 2017….
From crazy idea, to sign up, to training, it is all done. The lows, the highs and the nerves lived through. The countdown has begun and it is less then 16 hours to the start for the 2017 edition of the toughest MTB race in the world….
Who ever thouth South Africans are fun…was right. What started off as ‚the team who constantly drafted our wheels at the PE-Plett 4 stage MTB race‘ (there might be some alternative facts build in ;-)) quickly turned into a new built friendship with Team Garmin SA. Sure it took Yolandi and Melt a dear while to trust us Garmin Europe boy cause even at Melt’s experienced age of 40 years, Stefan and I were the first funny Germans the two have ever met and would you trust a funny German if you were convinced for 40 years that they don’t exist. Didn’t think so.
After they beat us to the finish line at PE-Plett we decided to watch them closely on our ‚home turf‘ in Stellenbosch to turn the tables and #beatyesterday at Cape Epic starting this Sunday.
Enjoy our little video from a fun social ride „Team Garmin SA meeting Team VANtastic / Garmin Europe“ and if you don’t care for us, just enjoy the stunning scenery of the trails around Stellenbosch!
„Get yourself the best possible bike you can get your hands on“ was the advice we received when signing up for Cape Epic and so we did with the Simplon Cirex120! After a few thousand kilometers, 2x 4 stage test races and just before Epic here is our first bike review of a bike that made us jump and shout all the way. The perfect weapon to go forward and fast and yet comfortable enough for multi stage racing!