Rachel Fenton is riding the ABSA Cape Epic, a week-long mountain bike stage race in South Africa. It's a unique challenge, requiring teamwork, stamina and endurance as well as resourcefulness and a sense of humour. After yesterday's prologue, Rachel muses on the importance of teamwork.
There is a lot to this riding as a team malarky. The Cape Epic, like many other stage races, is a pairs event. Unlike the pairs races in the UK, you do not ride the race as a relay but complete each stage together. You’re not allowed to cross a check point more than two minutes apart without a time penalty.
Inevitably there will be a stronger and a weaker rider on any one day. The challenge for the stronger rider is to motivate their team-mate without making them feel under pressure, and to support them when the going gets tough. The challenge for the weaker rider is to ride within their limits and not risk running out of energy or crashing and to stay positive.
The prologue stage of the Epic was ideal for Collyn and me to put this into practice. At only 23km with 700m of climbing this time trial stage was pretty much a cross-country race and therefore much more my territory than Collyn's (Despite my more recent diesely tendencies I’ve found someone more diesely than me.)
Our plan was therefore for her to take the lead and set the pace according to her comfort levels and for me to provide whatever support was required. Most importantly though, we were going to stick together.
As we rode through the vineyards of the Meerendal wine estate we saw a wide variety of other tactics. There were those who were smashing every climb leaving their partners for dust and breathing out of their ears struggling to keep up. Others went ahead but waited every so often to allow regrouping. Most impressive are the mixed pairs who are inevitably going to have the biggest speed differential. When they passed us, as many did, they were always riding together and helping each other. Many of the men's teams could learn a thing or two about teamwork from the mixed category.
Collyn and I found our feet pretty easily. Both of us were getting used to new bikes so there were some interesting moments. Because of the need for a second bottle on the Canyon Nerve I have a seatpost-mounted bottle cage. Unfortunately today my bottle hit my back tyre every time I compressed the rear shock. On a course with so many great drops and bumps, that happened a lot. Tonight’s job then, after the coach transfer to the start of Stage 1, is to increase the pressure. I like being able to jump around on my bike too much to have to be careful about not compressing!
I was the stronger rider of our pairing today. I hope I managed to provide the right level of encouragement. Ian Warby, my skills coach would be proud of my use of technical tips as motivators. We completed the course in a time of an hour and 45 minutes so we'll be in the back pen revving our diesel engines for a longer stage.
I'm enjoying this experience so much so thanks to Collyn for having me along.
Want to see what the stage was like to ride? Here's a video:
Results for Prologue
1 Christoph Sauser & Jaroslav Kulhavy (Burry Stander - SONGO)
2 Jose Hermida & Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida)
3 Marco Aurelio Fontana & Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing)
1 Esther Suss & Jane Nuessli (BMC Wheeler)
2 Sally Bigham & Milena Landtwing (Topeak Ergon)
3 Catherine Williamson & Yolande Speedy (Energas)
1 Erik Kleinhans and Ariane Kleinhans (RE:CM)
2 Theresa Ralph and Damian Perrin (Blogen Britehouse)
3 Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber (Big tree)