21 Apr Epic News
Starting with a BANG @ The Prologue
A perfect start to the 2017 Absa Cape Epic for Sabine and I with the prologue victory. I’d been looking forward to racing the Epic alongside this extremely well respected world class athlete. Everything went smoothly and we clicked as team-mates from the very start.
Blood, sweat and drama of Stage 1
Disaster struck us when I heard a commotion behind me…I stopped and looked back only to see Sabine was nowhere to be seen. I ran back to find her in a crevice, still cleated in her bike, with blood pouring from her brow. All we could do was limit our losses. This was where I saw determination like never before in someone’s eyes. Giving up was not an option to Sabine. We still managed to come in 2nd that day, and straight from there Sabine went for stitches to close the gash.
Sidewall Slashing – Stage 4
The longest stage of the Epic in terms of distance & a transition to the next race village meant some long haul sections on district roads.
The ladies teams tried to use power climbs and short fast technical sections to force breaks, but it wasn’t enough to create anything substantial. A fairly easy pedal to the 80km mark where we all knew the race would really begin – up Botriver pass which had a combination of taxing soft sand and sharp rocks to contend with for 18 odd km’s. Things were going well, Sabine and I perfectly positioned up the climb when we heard that sound you really don’t want to hear. That gushing of air…A sidewall cut meant we lost air instantaneously.
We landed up tubing and did our best to ensure we could get going as soon as possible. We got passed by many of the ladies teams during this time though. By the time we got going we were in 6th position 7
minutes down on Meerendal. We had to push to really limit our losses once again. Here we were… loosing time when our goal each day was to gain time, and get closer to orange. As a team we rode well to finish in 3rd place, and only lose 3 minutes.
An awesome day of riding on the trails in & around Elgin/Grabouw. With the fires that had swept through the valleys it was like riding on the moon. Surrounded by black burnt remnants of nature, with these incredibly sharp ferocious rocky formations and these bright energy filled blossoms of new life emerging
from the burned ground. As a team we worked endlessly from the start to finish, our ride was faultless…but
so was that of Meerendal. They stuck to us like glue, and rode really well to ensure we never gained time
on them. A high speed single track 5km from the finish delivered us at high speed on the finishing corner,
and the stage ended with another exciting, tight sprint finish, which we were extremely happy to take.
Bouncing back – Stage 2
Stage 2 was shortened due to the extreme heat in Greyton. Sabine and I felt good on the bike that day, which ended in an exciting sprint finish on a slight incline. The stage won by Meerendal, but we were happy with the fact that there had been no time lost and that Sabine was alright after the crash the previous day. We got such amazing support from spectators on the side of the course who seemed to have adopted my German pirate as a South African – Special thanks to all of those people for the cheering and the motivation to never give up.
Sprint to success Stage 3
A shorter punchy Stage 3 ran smoothly in every sense for us as we had our hearts set on closing in on the orange leaders Jerseys. We rode well together and claimed the Hansgrohe ladies hotspot as well as an
exciting sprint finish with Meerendal which we came out on top. A sweet victory, although we gained no time on Meerendal. At this stage we were chasing just over 9 minutes.
Epic sprint win – Stage 5
“Giving it stick” – Stage 6
The queen stage …was going relatively well, I had taken a little strain up Groenlandberg and we had lost some time as a result. Mariske and Annie had just made contact with us as we went bolting down a rugged
loose downhill at around the 65km mark. All of the sudden I saw Sabine slide out and loose control on the loose undersurface. I stopped immediately expecting Sabine to have some kind of injuries, but she bounced up, and looked good. But the next thing she said to me was the last thing I ever expected…. “Broken handlebars”. I think we may have even had a moment where we looked at one another in disbelief and
smiled… how could this bad luck be striking again? Unfortunately where the crash took place there had been a fire, and all of the wood was somewhat brittle. We made do with what we could… The sturdiest branch we could find… and taped it to the handle bars. Sabines arm warmers also came in handy when we ran out of tape.
The bar was by no means stable, but it was all we had to work with. We had been passed by so many riders at the point, thanks to everyone including all the ladies teams who asked if they could help… and even to those 😉 Ariane 😉 who briefly stopped and considered the situation when I asked for handlebars 🙂 It was 10-12km to the next tech zone, we put our heads down and knew that this was the end of our dreams of being
in orange. Every time we reached an area with fresher more “stablelooking” trees/branches we would both drop our bikes to the side and go running off into the bush, breaking branches and returning to the bike….we needed to splint the bar from the inside as it was broken fairly close to the stem.
….to find a branch that fits the diameter of the bar to fit inside… we would run back excitedly only to find that the branch had a knot in it which limited it from going in any further. We used some fresher wood
which worked for the next downhill and few km’s… up a steep climb, the shifters and brakes rotating around making Sabine’s ride such a struggle.
Eventually we reached an apple orchid… dropped our bikes one last time finding a bamboo stick being used to splint the apple trees. It fitted like a puzzle piece and had the length we needed to offer stability to the bars.
It took us to the next water-point/tech-zone at 76km’s where were able to get a new handlebar. From aiming to win this race, to gain our 13 minute deficit on the leading team, our goal had now shifted to just making it to the finish line… Reflecting back on this, I realise that this journey Sabine and I shared… the ups and the downs, nothing got us down, and giving up was never an option. Only we will ever know what we shared out there.
We even found ourselves laughing at how bad the situation was, even though inside there was huge disappointment, because we had both had our hearts set on winning this race. We reeled in a few of the ladies teams which had passed us and finished 7th that day – 30 minutes lost… impossible to make up. We learned that in life, things can always be worse…. never think it can’t be worse… it always can be. So many things go through your mind, I know I thought about this race, and putting it into perspective, the hardships other people are facing in life… sure this was hectic, it was bad, but it is a bike race, and one must never forget that. We said to one another “tomorrow we go for the stage”…. we spoke about the days happenings, shaking our heads in disbelief but also never any sign of negativity… accepting fate, focusing on the Grand
finale…what a way that would be to finish off a rather dramatic week.
Finishing on a high – GRAND FINALE – Stage 7
… Last push… final stage from Oak Valley in Elgin to Val de Vie in Paarl. Mixed emotions inside, but feeling
excited to really give our all for the stage. The pace was high from the start, pushing hard at times, and relaxing on other sections as the teams played a few games leading up to the final climb of the 2017 edition of the Absa Cape Epic. A 7km climb up Franschoek pass, followed by a long descent on tar, and then a sharp left downhill onto the last bit of mountain biking terrain. The descent was quite tricky coming off the tar and a break formed quickly with the Hansgrohe Cadence team, team Spur and ourselves… we worked hard to maintain the break, and sped through the water-point, loosing team Spur at the 58km mark. This left us and Hansgrohe Cadence team to work together in the hunt for a win on this final stage. Through jeep track, punchy drags, and a rather chaotic final few km’s. We were joined by the Meerendal team within the latter km’s of the stage… up over a bridge, onto the polo fields as we had to navigate our way through slower riders from batch A… I heard Sabine talking to me, letting me know we could push, go for the sprint… and in the Nick of time, we did it… winning the sprint finish of the final stage of this event filled Cape Epic.
A special thank you to my teammate, Sabine, for memories that will last forever. Despite us both being so ready for this race, it never turned out that we were on the top step. Thank you for being such a positive person, and for becoming a friend I will forever cherish. Despite all that got thrown at us, we conquered against all odds. Thank you’s to our Ascendis health /Lange sports staff who worked so hard at making this all possible, for taking care of us, for believing in us. To my family for being pillars and supporting my cycling career the way they do. To all the people who supported us from start to finish. To sponsors who ensure we have the best of everything.