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April 6, 2010

The Offical Cape Epic Report : Days 4-6

Welcome back. Here the story continues with the tale of days 4-6, what I would have considered our “Golden Period” at the Cape Epic. The disaster of Day 2 avenged on Day 3 where I narrowly avoided total meltdown. We move onto Day 4, where we had a change of location and a crazy day…

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Day 4:

Determined to exact some revenge from the previous day where my body had a near #BOOM I ate extra and packed in a protein shake 30min before the start of the day. We were told to prepare for 45km of flat road, then some long, winding climbs into the winelands of Worcester before we hit the sand. We were not told it would be a mass start out of Worcester for 8km where we would hit a sand dune going at 15% for about 300m. We missed the split as I was caught napping (sorry Fretten!) and consolidated that the day would be another of waiting to pounce.

By now my hands were getting a little better and I was ready to rumble. We rode with the group, who were more than willing to work between km 8 and 30, especially the Brazilians who had their personal TV crew there. They were hammering on the front! Once we hit the first hills, however, we were bridging groups on the climbs and consolidating on the flats. It was loaded with short, steep climbs (not my best).

The long climbs were great and we just rode tempo outdoing ourselves, only for my tendinitis riddled hands to let us down a little on some of the steep downhills as I couldnt even grip the bars in places my fingers would just lock out when there were too many bumps in the road. Frustration was creeping in.

My hands went totally stupid again at about 60km and the extra work my lower back was going meant that my back was seizing from over compensation. I did find a great outlet for it. Its called shouting. Works like a charm. Release is everything. I moaned, screamed and gritted my way through the sandy patches, even if I had to stop once to stare at the sky for just a few moments to let my back release as my legs stopped working for a moment.

Brett was super solid on Day 4. Applause it due as he had to put up with silly falls from my side and general miff behavior from the Ninja.

I know we motored the last 40km and came in 35th, I think. More important than winning, we hung tough and stuck to our plan and it worked out again. It was a pretty uneventful day with the main goal being transition before the time trial on day 5.

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Day 5:

We woke late and were off very late. Instead of a 7am start, we were off at 12:34:30. why? Today was only 27km and would take us roughly 1h20min in total vs the normal 6 hour day.

Now, Brett is a 40km TT specialist. 1 hour is his thing. He lives for it. It is rumored that the Red Mist earned its name from the color of the haze of sweat that explodes off his competitors as he blows by in a 1 hour time trial. You are getting the point. He rocks at 60min.

He was licking his chops on this day. It was a potential nightmare for me as I only warm up around 40km into the race. I was very nervous. I was so nervous in fact, that I forgot my gel before the race, forgot to take my 2 yellow pills on the start ramp and may have left common sense at the door as well.

I took off at what for me, was a furious pace, somewhere just short of having a bit of vomit in my throat and being able to lick my eyeballs. Like a mastiff after a long run, it wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

It hurt. I am not going to lie to you. For 1 hour and 23minutes, I hurt non-stop, flat out. It was the hardest effort I had ever put out on the bike. Brett was flawless, pushing me emotionally the whole way. He knows me so well. He kept me going for sure and I was riding as hard as I could, wanting more, more, more. We struggled through some teams on the technical downhill section which cost us our sub 1:20 but we were going as absolutely hard as I could.

We came in 38th, which was way above what I thought I was good for on the day. I was afraid of letting Brett down at his specialty but for me, this was a huge victory.

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Day 6:

For many months it was promised to be THE day at Epic. I have to say, we were ready. Very.

By now there were some teams making a comeback like us and even though we were riding ahead of team we had not managed to hang onto the day before, each day, we were very consistent in overall results.

Day 6 began like any other day. Moerse breakfast, protein shake, in the start pen an hour before the race to secure position aaaaaaaaaaaaand GO!

There were 2 big climbs on the day. Both looked open, wide, etc i.e. perfect for me for a change. I tend to do better on the longer, less steep climbs. What I lack in torque I make up plenty in economy and what Brett called “The Metronome Pace”.

Again we were riding in a select group that included guys 10 places higher than us in the overall quite easily. It was amazing to ride in the group with Thomas Frischnecht, past world cup champion. I learnt quite a bit from following down just two hills. His lines were different to what I was used to riding, but twice as fast and without a doubt, smoother.

I felt particularly good on the day and the hands were recovering better each day. I helped set tempo for the group for long stretches and was waiting for the climbs, eager. A freak accident where a rider just lost balance going 40km/h on the flat was narrowly avoided. I have no idea how Brett got out of it. NO>IDEA>. It went slow motion for a second, maybe two, where it seemed like an eternity before he emerged from the dust unscathed.

On the first climb we dropped the group and solo’d ahead to the next few teams. Great. All was working well. The legs wanted Groenlandberg. It was to be a long, sandy climb up the back side of the beast, but the tempo was good. Every 2min or so one rider would drop off the group until we were alone, riding in scorched earth in the middle of nowhere. It took my breath away it was so beautiful and I had to remind myself there was a race to be had.

Up and over the top and into the valley we went, 15km of single track awaited us and another new destination – Elgin and Oak Valley and the promise of steak and red wine from Brett’s dad who had flown in to come support.

I am not the most technical single track rider and I was doing what I could. I was disgusted at the European teams who were taking short cuts in the forest. Once in Oak Valley we were energized and rode as hard as we could. We were exuberant as we felt we had conquered the day, evident by the photo above at the finish.

We came in roughly 45min earlier than we thought, testament to the synergy of our work together as a team. It was our best day out there. One to never forget when the legs felt amazing.

Steak, wine, dinner. Day 7 lay ahead, full of suprises. More on that later in the week, along with the Epilogue and the overall emotions of the week…

One Comment on “The Offical Cape Epic Report : Days 4-6

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