Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Absa Cape Epic 2014.....done!!

Team Fixed Wheel getting its medals!
The last day of the Epic is one of mixed emotions. Pure joy that a week of enormous physical challenge is almost over, yet sadness that an amazing week is over and the culmination of months of planning and training is over.

How did we go? We ended up having another solid day on the last stage. I was in the hurt box from the Get-go with my knee just hanging in there. Damo rode the stage with us and Buzz was riding well. We managed to be 11th in Masters on the day and 80th overall which is similar to where we finished in the GC. If we hadn't have had the mechanical on Stage 2, we would have been well inside the top 10 of masters (however everyone has their challenges in this event).

I got stronger once I got over the day's climbs and we came home strongly. It was magic with the 3 Hampton/Fixed Wheel boys riding down the finishing chute together, with our arms around each other. I did feel for Rusty who didn't finish the race after severe dehydration on Stage 4, but I know he will be back to finish what he started in the future. We had our medals presented to us by an ex world champion and then had a lazy afterno
Damo and I with our medals
on in beautiful Lourensford eating, drinking and relaxing.

What makes the Absa Cape Epic so special. It is a number of things that combine to make such a successful recipe.

The first ingredient is the physical aspect. Words cannot describe how hard physically this event is. It's not only riding the event, but the 8 days of getting up at between 4:30 and 5am, getting to the race, eating right recovering etc. There are times in the race where you physically don't think you can carry on. However some how you do.

The second is the mental side. If you aren't strong mentally then this race will break you. Going into my second Epic, I was much better prepared mentally. I knew that the bad phase on a stage would pass, I knew not to pay attention to my mind telling me to stop. I knew there were times I just had to push through the mental barrier and that besides a fall, that nothing could seriously hurt me.

The third aspect is teamwork. This race is a pure example of how teaming should work.
Couple of happy finishers
 First of all pick the right partner, be similar in fitness and ability, train together, know each other's strengths, and weaknesses and have joint goals going into the race I couldn't have asked for a better teammate than Buzz. He understands what is required to be a good teammate and he knew when to push and when to back off. He rode very consistently and when he had a bad day, I was strong and vice versa. He was our team captain and after 2 Epics together, not only do I know every aspect of him physically by the hundreds of hours riding with him, I can also see how down to earth he is and what makes him a great competitor. The rest of the guys were great fun, Damo and Rusty in Team Hampton and David doing all the hard work supporting us logistically. We laughed and took the mickey out of each other all week. A great group to travel with. We also had fantastic support from Caryn, our physio and Buzz's sister in law, Karen also couldn't do enough for us. A big thanks to them both.

The  next ingredient is the location. South Africa is a magical place, not without its problems, but around the Western Cape magnificent mountains, lush Valleys, plenty of fast flowing trails to ride and friendly people.

The final ingredient is the event itself. They call the Cape Epic "the Tour de France of Mountainbiking". It is not without justification. The scale of this event cannot be understated. Everything is huge, from the logistics, the food, medical, accommodation, sponsor support, spectators and riders from 46 countries. If you are good enough as an amateur (top 100 teams), you start with the Pro's, ride the same course in the same conditons on the same day in the same race. It is a race that gets into your skin and you want to go back, however while you are doing it you wish for a lightening bolt to strike you to put you out of the hurt you are in.

The highlight for me? Definitely has to be Stage 2 in the rain and mud. For what was supposed to be one of the 
Happy campers
easier stages, the torrential rain and the extent of the mud were conditions I have never ridden in before and (hopefully) will  never again.  It was a memorable stage. Imagine riding your bike as hard as you can for 100k over unmade potholed trails and someone spraying you with muddy stinking water directly into your face and you will get the idea!!

Will I be back. I think I have too. Buzz and I need 1 more race to become a member of the exclusive Ambesi club. Damo and Rusty have unfinished business. I am keen to give Supermasters a go as I think I can go close to a podium in that category, however Buzz is too young for that so we will have to see. 2016 will be the next time for me.
All done!!
Finally a big thankyou to all our sponsors:

Specailized Australia for all the kit. Their bikes are second to none. They are beautiful to ride and didn't miss a beat on a very severe course. Their grid tyres are superb and there is a reason why nearly 50% if competitors at the Epic ride Specailized.

Hampton Cycles for their kit and support, the same for The Fixed Wheel. When in Melbourne, see the boys at Hampton and if you are I Sydney you want to visit Danny in Manly.

Hincape for the great race kit, Barfly for the garmin support, bonk breaker for their great bars, Symantec for their support and finally The Taste of Belgian Cafe in Seaforth. Didier always had a coffee and a pastry waiting for us after a ride and I can't wait to visit  him for a coffee when I get back to Sydney.

2015 will be a gap year, maybe we will hit the Alp's following the Tour that year.

Then in 2016, back to South Africa.....

1 comment:

  1. Mike, what an amazing adventure. A 'bucket-list' experience that you have now done twice. I really enjoyed reading this blog, thanks for sharing.