Mountain bike racer Rachel Fenton is in South Africa for the ABSACape Epic multi-day mountain bike stage race. Before she and Collyn Ahart start the race, Rachel got to hang out with some of the world’s top racers at an ‘unofficial World Cup race’.
Its not every day that within 12 hours of flying into a race venue you are in a cafe with Christoph Sauser and the entirety of the Specialized team and crew. But on Wednesday evening there I was sitting overlooking a vineyard and chatting to a group of mountain bikers with Christoph and the guys laughing at the next table.
When I heard via Twitter that there was going to be an ‘unofficial world cup race’ in one of the townships close to Cape Town prior to the start of the Cape Epic I decided to do everything I could to get out there. After asking around I discovered some Americans who owed Suzi some wheels (he’s a fan of Kappius hubs apparently), a hire car was arranged and we headed out of town. The guys at the hire car place said we needed an escort to go into a township, but we were optimistic that if the best riders in the world were going to be there we were probably ok.
It was pretty hard to find the race given that all we knew was the name of the Khayamandi township, but we followed our noses and stumbled into a football stadium through an alleyway of huts to see a Specialized easy-up and the hard-to-miss Red Bull arch.
It was like a who’s who of the best cross-country racers in the world and they were racing on a course akin to something Beastway would put together. Kulhavy, Fumic, Lakata, Fontana you name it they were there.
What was most impressive was the seemingly hundreds of little kids running or riding their bikes around and cheering for local heroes. These were guys who had learned to ride mountain bikes at the pump track just above the stadium and who were lined up to race among the stars of the sport. I have never been so inspired to race my bike. It’s a shame there wasn’t a women’s race because I’d have been right there, having slept on a plane or not!
Fast-forward an hour and through various connections there I was eating barbecue food in unimaginable company. What a start to the week.
The rest of my time here in Cape Town pales into insignificance by comparison but the atmosphere is superb here and the town is full of mountain bikers – both pros and not so pros. As far as my preparation has been, it’s unusual for me to be somewhere with this much time before I race and the time has been invaluable. I’ve ridden in the heat and recovered from both work and travelling. My bike is ready and I’ve played around to get it set-up just right for these conditions. This is definitely a luxury I’d love to enjoy more often.
With just one more day before Collyn Ahart and I hit the start ramp for our prologue time trial there is little remaining to be done except for eating, sleeping and keeping our fingers crossed for some more rain to keep the heat manageable. Wish us luck!