“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….The marshall next to us is asking us how we are doing and all I can reply is ‘ask me again tomorrow’. The last thing I want to do right now is to talk to other people.
It’s first been months, then weeks, then days and suddenly only seconds until a little dream for Stefan and me will come true. 120 seconds later and we are standing on the ramp. I get pulled out of my thoughts by race announcer Paul Kaye calling us up „And with start number 84 Team VANtastic by Mercedes-Benz with Till Schenk and Stefan Zelle. Usually I would be cracking a joke right now or mimic a clown on stage but today is not the day. The last thought I have before heading down the ramp is “ don’t fuck it up putting the second foot on the pedal in front of all those people” and off we go. Adrenalin and endorphins are flooding the body until Stefan get’s me back to the real world with a friendly ‘oh man, even the beginning isn’t rolling at all’ reality check.
The prologue is only 26km long with 750 meters of dusty and hot cycling with temperatures well above 30 Celsius. Maybe owed to the excitement and nerves and therefore not hydrating well enough or maybe owed to something else I quickly have to pay tribute to the heat. Usually not an issue for me, are all signs pointing towards dehydration. Something I don’t realize in race mode at all. Light headed on the bike, slight cramping in calf and hands and little power on the pedal and in the meanwhile Stefan is taking the lead at the half way point only to make me suffer a little more in those climbs. I don’t even move to the front for the last single trail section which is usually our pattern. The only thing I can think about after every climb is „Bring down the heart rate and focus. Don’t fuck this up“ . Happiness kicks in for a moment when crossing the finsih of my first ever Cape Epic stage, quickly followed by a strong ‘leave me alone, I need shade and sleep‘ feeling.
A couple of liters of Coca Cola, electrolyte drinks, water and recovery shakes later are we sitting in the car with the stereo blasting. We are on our way to Hermanus. Home of stage 2 and start of stage 3.
I think if I was looking at today I should be scared to hell and back before tomorrows 101km but instead there is only looking forward. 7 stages to go and they are going to be epic.
The motto for tomorrow – #beatyesterday.
Catch you tomorrow! After a successful stage.