ABSA Cape Epic Stage 6: Going it alone

The dynamic duo parted ways on Stage 5. Rachel (right) carries on alone as Collyn (left) suffered a knee injury.

Rachel rides her first full stage alone, the penultimate of the ABSA Cape Epic.

My original plan for today, my first proper day without Collyn, was to ride steady and just get through the 99km and 3000m of climbing. Turns out I’m just too competitive! Once I started passing people it got kind of addictive and I carried on.

Notable passes include Stephen Roach and someone who used to play football for Real Madrid or Barcelona! Admittedly, neither is probably at their cycling best but still you take what you can.

We started the day climbing a stunning mountain range out of Wellington. I have learned now that marathon racing, obviously being all about clever use of energy, requires extensive use of granny gears. Today, this was truer than ever! The climbs were both long and at times, brutally steep. I spent lots of time right on the front of my saddle with my chin on my stem.

After two mountains we descended through the most glorious single track (yet again South Africa you amazed me). I made some friends at this point, a good thing to do as a loner.  A couple of guys were also working through the field and as locals they knew the good lines. I was able to sit on their wheels and enjoy the descent.

When the descent leveled out, we hit the headwind. I had passed my friends towards the bottom of the descent and was in no mans land, alone, in a headwind. I plugged on but wished I had my diesel ‘teamie’ back. I managed to find a few groups to sit in and recover, but I was almost exclusively alone for 35km churning into a headwind. Mind blowing!

When we began climbing again I was overjoyed, but I was too hasty. It wasn’t just fire road climbing, oh no, it was more stem eating steep stuff. With the odd super technical descent thrown in between for good measure. They were really punishing us today.

Early on, I maybe overdid it a bit, so I had a bit of ‘recovery’ time at this point. Read, pedaling slower and stuffing food in my mouth. I also had a silly tumble off the bike trying to tackle a climb everyone was walking. I need Collyn to help me be sensible!

When I crossed the finish line today it was great to see Collyn there, waiting for me. I enjoyed a day out on my own and would have been 5th if I had been in the race ‘proper’ but it’s not what I came here for. Bittersweet.

You can follow Rachel on Twitter for more opinion of the race.


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