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January 3, 2011

Epic Unsupported Tour 2010: Days 1 to 3

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As was now the tradition, there was much talk about doing the same trip we did last year, with less tar and more remote areas. 2010’s version did not disappoint. As is tradition, TheHousemate does much of the administrative side to the Tour and I bring the crew and am director of photography. This year we had a pretty rad crew, what with current World Number 1 Long Distance Triathlete – James Cunnama, neo pro Ryan Redman and the Yin / Yang combo of Collin Allin and TheHousemate (Guy Veysey) to compliment my own energy to the trip.

To say the boys were looking forward to the trip is quite an understatement. Email banter, threats, jokes and general smack talk started long before the 5 of us (+ Matt Blake, our expert return driver of the car to make sure we had no option but to ride) got in the car. World Smack Talk Champs ensued. 6 boys together in confined space makes for some radical conversation I tell you. This is not a trip you can bring a weak link or an unreasonable person on. The others would eat him alive and leave him out in the bush to be fed on by the giant red locusts that frequent the greater Klein Karoo area. We all have to get along, full stop.

The Rock Pedal Classic is a 2 day, 130km adventure for us to gently start the tour. 2 days of drinking beer, loading on food and sorting the bike issues before we head off into the wilderness to emerge a few days later, leaner, stronger and with a bit of blood here and there. Proper boys adventure, this trip. The idea is to throw yourself in the deep end and see if you can swim out. Some of us throw ourselves in super deep and others take a more measured approach, but really the week is about energy management, fatigue management and seeing some of the most beautiful scenery you will come across in the world.

The first 2 days are super chill with much of it being spent on getting James used to the mountain bike, sorting some tech issues with the newly built 29er bikes (no bike shops out here for a first service) and getting the 5 boys to gel well. James & myself set pace for most of the 2 days making sure the others were hurting just a tad at times so make sure their metabolisms kicked hard and their heads got into what is commonly referred to as the “Willingness To Suffer Zone” or the WTSZ. This involves some HTFU and some WTFY but in the end, we are all ready for the next few days. The Montagu Pass was exceptional with some great video being recorded by Ryan on his Go Pro camera. I will get this up once we’ve loaded the gigs of video to the interwebs.

We were completely spoilt at The Goose Wines with a double rainbow which left us all very quiet and it was almost a sign of the amazing spaces we would be in for the next week, but we were all far too boyish to admit all of that. Instead we sipped our Jack Blacks and silently appreciated the full double rainbow overhanging the Outeniqua Mountains. There was also the realization that 2 days with limited vertical gain (1200m a day) and limited miles were over. The fun stuff was about to begin.

Day 3 for us is always a special one. Bit of a warm-up (read: 70km off road ride) to Oudtshoorn for a smashing breki in our spot there, with a 28km ride to the Cango Caves where we have another quick stop before we pop over (read: suffer) the incredible Swartberg pass into what is a super fun descent into Prins Albert for a legendary dinner. But first, we pack our tiny bags and enough bars, gels and powder to last a week and gingerly pedal out the door. Some early pace governance was the order of the day as the Yin/Yang combo have a habit of taking it out early with gusto. A couple of mentions of pace by James & myself seemed to calm them down and we were riding very, very nicely with everyone talking and me trying to take some photos in places where I could get a bit ahead of behind the crew. A wrong turn had us add 12km to the trip, but nothing we couldn’t manage from our side.

By the time we hit Oudtshoorn the lads were hungry and we opted for burgers and/or omelets (plural if you`re name is James), a fill of the bottles and a hop back onto the bikes for the ride through the flat pass to Cango Caves. The heat was rising and we opted for a stop to refill there, under the roof. The nervous energy was building what with a 1200m vertical rise left after 100km on the bike already. Last year Collin suffered immensely up the climb and was determined to exact some revenge. His willingness to cash in chips was exemplary of throwing yourself in the deep end when you know that tomorrow is just going to be bigger. We pedaled out of the pit stop to find it had increased in temperature somewhat and I had a little smile to myself. This trip brings out the best in us and the weather had been great all day. The new microwave type heat was just nature’s way of saying… “you are not done yet, son”. A couple profound words were heard as we turned to the Pass, which by the way, has a killer 15km section before you hit the tar. Do NOT overdo the first piece, all on tar. We learned this the year before.

Epic Unsupported 2010 Day 1 by raouldejongh at Garmin Connect - Details_1294050399180

My legs felt fantastic and I was happy to see all the training before Hawaii was still in there somewhere. James, Collin and myself pedaled off on the tar leaving Ryan & Guy to process the scenario for themselves. Day 1 is often the hardest when going ultra distance, so a moment here or there for someone is always going to happen when they are thinking WTF did I get myself into here. Day 2 is always better. We all regrouped at the bottom of the dirt road and we each went our own pace, James & myself setting out at a manageable pace with energy left for the kickers. I had no doubt he still had loads in the tank and I was riding at my aerobic limit, saving energy for the rest of the week while he was taking in the sights. A privilege to ride with someone who exemplified “economy of movement” to eloquently.

A couple stops on the way up to wait for the dudes to catch up and Collin had ridden a full 45min faster up the pass this year. He was suitably stoked and the rest of us were happy to admire the views and the peace at the top. It was one of the moments along the way when you realize why we do these crazy trips. To get up high, where the air is thin, on your own power with the element of adventure sets the mind free. There is no speak of work, of material things up there. There is merely the clear mind that comes from conquering the hill and your own doubts. No matter how bad it seems halfway up, the top always comes and the view is always amazing. Oh, and the ride down is simply the best, check this out:

pass

The reward is going down that at 50km/h, passing cars and screaming like a fat kid at a cake buffet for more more more!! We rolled into Prins Albert to a great venue for the evening and proceeded to smash 6 beers, pizza and waffles after the snack of yoghurt, apple pie and 2 cokes upon arrival. Life was simple and there was the realization that the 151km we covered on this day would take us far less time than the 100km we had to cover tomorrow, which is always the toughest day on Tour. The new guys had no idea what was coming and it would live up to its name of The Hell in the morning. But I`ll tell you all about that tomorrow.

One Comment on “Epic Unsupported Tour 2010: Days 1 to 3

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Raoul de Jongh. Raoul de Jongh said: http://bit.ly/eE8LDy Epic Unsupported Tour Days 1 to 3, feat @jamescunnama @collinallin @RyanRedman1985 and ThatGuy. #cycling […]

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