Thursday, 29 March 2012

Stage 3...An Epic Day!!

Before todays marathon stage
Buzz after!!
me after!!
The usual routine took place this morning. Up at 4.45am. Stuff as much breakfast into us as possible and be on the start line ready for a 7am gun. It is the longest hardest stage ever in Cape Epic history. 149k and 3000m of vertical climbing. None of us had ever done a stage like this and I was very quiet and apprehensive during breakfast. Would my body hold up? We estimated The stage would take us around 7 and a half hours of full on riding.

The gun went and the pace was on. Buzz and I got a good start and our plan was to stick with the lead pack for the first 18k as it was pretty flat and good for roadies who know how to ride in a big pack. 1200 riders took off all at once. Once the race settled, we were in the top 70-80 riders tucked in and rolling along with Olympic champions, Tour de France riders and a couple of hacks from Manly. The level of riders in the top few hundred riders is incredible. All around us we these tall lean strong Germans, Dutchmen, French, Polish, Danish and South African riders. They can pull your legs off with their strength along the flat trails. It was very exciting with choppers hovering 100m above the peloton  filming as we rolled along at 50kph on a spectacular morning in the Winery's area of the Western Cape.

The finish at Caledon. Boy were we happy to see it.
After about 18k into the race, there was the first hill. Buzz and I dug deep and got over it with the lead group. It is incredibly difficult riding at 50k an hour with 100 guys around you, 1 inch space handlebar to handlebar and making sure you are keeping position in the peloton as well as ensuring your team mate is right with you. It is no point riding by yourself at the front as this is a 2 man team event. It requires very close communication and teamwork. Buzz and I have done a lot of km's together in training and we know each other's riding pretty well.  A lot of the time we can tell how each other is feeling just by looking at each other!  You know things are going well when one of us loses the wheel of the other and without turning around you just hear an Aussie accented "yep" behind you and you know he is tucked in behind you or it is me doing the tucking in. No need to waste energy by turning around.

Leigh and Damo, we took this shot for you guys.
Loving the Epic to ride on. 25% of the field must be
on Specialized 29er's
After about 25k there was a sharp turn onto a narrow trail. The peleton breathed in, but not enough. Bang! A crash just in front of us at 40kph in the  blinding dust. Rider and bikes are sprawled across the sandy road. Buzz and I miss it narrowly. The riders at the front heard the sound of carbon and bodies hitting the deck and instinctively accelerated. We went with them and next thing you know there was a split in the peloton. We made the split and got pulled along by the strong boys up the front.

Into the showers after the stage

We were in a great spot, positoned  in the top 50 teams coming into the first feed zone at the 59km point. We had strong teams around us and we felt good tucked in and taking advantage of the draft. Just after the first feed, we had our first mishap. I lost my chain between the frame and lowest gear as I changed into the big ring. We had to stop so I could untangle it. We lost the group. We took off again, chasing and got into another group. Still well up the front of the race. We were climbing well and felt good. Then Buzz got a puncture. Here at the Epic we have tubeless tyres with a special sealant in it that "seals" the tyre if it gets a puncture. It didn't work correctly and we had to stop to fix it. Group after group past us as we stood by the trail. We got going again, but the damage was done! We had lost 30-40 positions. W had to stop another 5 or 6 times to keep putting more air in the tyre as it was losing air as we rode. We kept at it however and managed to limit the damage and still finished within the top 100 teams for the stage and only dropped from 82nd to 84th overall.
Buzz collecting has raffle winnings
It was an unbelievably hard stage.  I know know what the tour riders feel like when they see the 1km to go  banner.  Buzz's garmin was playing up and we thought we had 30k to go when we saw the 10k to go banner. I asked a spectator as we came tearing past to make sure it was real.  He confirmed it. It was like winning the lottery!! Once I had my nose pointed to home, I cranked up the Specialized Epic and told Buzz to tuck in.  We came over the line in around 7hrs and 10mins of racing.  Johnny and Mark had a tough day in the saddle and came in around 50 mins after us. Mark had a tough day in the saddle.

After the race in the recovery tent, they had a little raffle and Buzz and I managed to win a waterbottle each!  Much mirth by all with the  Aussies winning!!
our new digs
We moved tonight from our Orphanage in Robertson to a nice B&B called the Hoew Hoek Inn near Grabouw.  It is like luxury compared to our little room at Robertson. No problems sleeping tonight.
We are now half way in time and distance through the race. It feels like hump day is over.  We know know we can finish this race!!
Tomorrow is another 110k and 2300m of climbing.  Another tough day!!!


  1. Great effort guys, stick with it. Enough of the shots of you two cuddling! RF

  2. Everyone in Melb is very jealous...Team Hampton would do an excellent job of racing in the Epic.... probably without me though...keep going..Buzz you look as though you are doing the race easy.. Hopefully Buzz is educating the Euros' in the aussie way of communication during a race when they get in you way!! Mike looks tired but would rather die than roll off the pace. Dave FOSTER

  3. By the sound of it Buzz is holding you up again....

  4. Sounds like you're having a great time. Keep it up!