After getting a slot for Cape Epic I had to make a decision. Try to be one of the wannabe cool kids and race Cape Epic without ever having done even a 1 day MTB race before or actually try to get an idea of what the hell I had gotten myself into. It wasn’t just that I had never raced a MTB race before I also never raced with my team mate Stefan before. I quickly decided that my cool days were over and that I should start acting age appropriate. At least for once. So after a little warm up on Lanzarote the 4 Stage PE-Plett MTB race from Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg in the Easter Cape of South Africa was our big moment to test the team dynamics, get a feel for what racing in South Africa will be like and really ride the equipment on the roughest terrain possible.
Day one instantly kicked off as one off the longest of the 4 days heading out of Woodridge, PE and threw a lot of obstacles and fun at us. With roughly 200 riders the field was one of the smaller ones which made riding fun and the morning nice and relaxed. A scorcher of a day took a lot out of us on day one already but we stuck to the golden rule ‚take it easy, find a rhythm and have fun‘. At least for the day 😉 With highlights like a river crossing with a half built bridge or a walk along a train bridge that looked like Jesse James left it there when the Wild, Wild West died were some of the highlights of the day and just at the last climb Team Garmin SA caught back up to us and was kind enough to yell Stefan down the hill so that we could cross the finish line just ahead of us. For sure the moment a new friendship was built. A second place in the category, new friends made, stuck to the ’no all out racing‘ rule. Day one clearly was a success. Add our second team we befriended to it and we spent the entire evening laughing our butts of. The social aspect of this race turned out to be just brilliant.
Day 2 can only be described as a game of ‚Donkey Kong‘. I am still convinced that day was a secret attempt at our life. Just when you passed what felt like the 1105th obstacle of the day somebody threw another barrel at us. Judging by the little talking Stefan and I did towards the end of the stage it was clear that the challenges kept growing and the fun slightly decreasing. It didn’t help that Stefan evened out the crash score with 1:1 in a rocky descent after I made it 1:0 the day before by missing a turn around a tree. All the fun we had with Team Garmin SA and team ‚Male Mixed SA – Graeme and Leandro‘ certainly made up for the day and it was nice to be on the podium again with a 3rd place in the category.
Day 3 was a fun one with a 5.3km mountain climb right out of the gates. After having a couple of teams around us the first 2 days I told Stefan in the morning – we are going out hard with Team Garmin SA and make it clear from the beginning that this is our day. Unfortunately Team Garmin had an issue with a stick in the wheels just before the peak and so we broke away alone only to take a wrong turn later in the race and as we almost made it back to the route we saw Team Garmin SA had not only caught up but passed us with our detour. That was the moment my head went into race mode and Stefan just started laughing quietly behind me as he saw my pull the horn in the front. A rocky game of cat and mouse with Team Garmin SA for a 3rd day in a row made us eventually drop the knives and ride it home together to a nice finish at the Tsitsikamma Falls National Park. Overall another nice day of racing which saw us on the category podium again. Only downfall that day was the dinner and the lady who managed dinner and almost bit my head of when asking for a second serving 😉
Day 4, the final day saw only one goal. Ride hard but controlled together with Garmin, get home safely and bring home that podium spot in the category and all went smoothly at a fairly high every as a result of the easy terrain we were riding that day until with 30km to go Stefan’s pulley wheel broke into 2 pieces at full speed – possibly a result of the crash 2 days ago – and the race was over. There was no way for him to sensibly continue the race and we decided I ride it home alone with Team Garmin SA only to experience the second attempt on my life this weekend when Ben from Team Garmin decided to time trial it like a mad man for the coming 20km. With some good fortune I managed to not wrap my lungs around my spokes while they were hanging out my mouth and I made it to the finish out of category though. The final few kilometers saw is climb, not ride down to the amazing beaches of Nature’s Valley. Certainly a worthy finish.
Overall PE-Plett was a fantastic race with great organizers, all round good atmosphere, a strong social aspect and new friends made. Maybe some of the catering should be revisited and I would wish for more single trail sections in future editions.