ABSA Cape Epic Stage 4: Epic suffering

Rachel Fenton and Collyn Ahart are almost into survival mode at the Cape Epic – but so is everyone else.

On the road

The ABSA Cape Epic is getting to its climax now with only three stages remaining. Everyone is beginning to suffer.

There seem to be more riders on the sidelines than on the trail today. Two of the top women’s teams are out now due to stomach problems and the Cath Williamson (awesome but under appreciated British Marathon racer) from the leading women’s team has stitches in one arm. But more generally people are getting tired and crashing and bikes are getting tired and breaking.

My bike is holding up very well. I am very glad of Stan’s sealant and the snake skin tyres my other half made me use. I pull thorns out of them everyday and have had at least two punctures seal.

It is a matter of bike maintenance though. At the finish line you hand over your bike and the guys from Pragma wash it for you (they text you when it’s done). But I always check the tyres and oil the chain, pedals and jockey wheels just to make sure.

Stage 4 was another transition stage. Big kilometres, 120 of them, but not so much climbing; ‘just’ 2300m. Oh how my norms have been reset.

We had a 15km flat dirt road start this morning. The dust clouds were something you just cannot imagine. I’m going to have brown snot for weeks.

By the first climb my chain was already squeaking and I had to stop to oil it. Normally I can just wait for each water station to get it oiled) This stage wasn’t as horrific as the last transition though, for me, mainly due to the fact that the route was nicely broken up by four climbs.

The first one was on forest roads, not too steep and pretty enjoyable to ride. The second a bit tougher since it had a bit of a false peak and then transitioned to a more challenging pebble, boulder surface. I tried I ride as much of it as I could because for me it is easier to ride than to walk, but it wasn’t necessarily faster.

Another big push

After a little descent it transitioned again to a dirt road climb; pretty nasty but at the right point of the day. We were doing pretty well at this point. Many of the women’s teams we had been riding around during the race seemed to be struggling and we had either passed or not seen them all morning. There was at least one team with a pretty bad mechanical problem.

Climb three was probably not really for me as I struggle to challenge my inner roadie, but for people who needed a break from the dirt a 16km road climb must have been a welcome relief. The tarmac was counteracted somewhat by the stunning scenery through the Bain’s Kloof pass though, which you can kind of see in Collyn’s very nifty photo. Down from here we hit some stunning Wellingtonian singletrack which I’m hoping to see more of tomorrow.

So, 100km down, water station top up and spray with a hose to cool the body down in the searing African heat (42 degrees again today), then hit climb four. This singletrack climb would have been so much fun if we had not already been riding for six hours, but at this point everyone was having mini meltdowns all over the place. Back ache, saddle sores, you name it we have it and so we ride a bit, trudge a bit, ride down a bit, rinse, repeat. It’s really not much fun. But we finally reached the top and were again rewarded with a descent down into Wellington on yet more great singletrack.

It’s been tough, but we are surviving. We just need to keep pedalling now, keep the bikes going and stay smooth.


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