I wrote yesterday about the spectators along the route. The majority of them have some kind of vested interest in the race, but given the routing through farms and past schools, at various points we also have the wives and children of farm workers. Apart from the kids pleading for “sweeties”, the standard chorus of encouragement is “hou bene, hou
The translation is something along the lines of “hold legs, hold” or “last legs, last.”
Legs were top of mind for me last night. Every time I moved in my sleep I could feel my legs complaining about being forced to pedal me around the Cape Epic course. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get through the Queen Stage.
The first 10km this morning were mostly on the flat, and were done at quite a lick. First we were on a stony gravel road, mostly riding into the wind. Then we were on a tar road, and then back onto gravel, before entering vineyards.
One of the strengths of Piet on a bicycle (there are numerous) is his ability to ride strategically, especially in picking riders to sit behind. The windy conditions made that a necessity, and we got pulled along very nicely.
Once in the vineyards, we started hitting sand patches. Riding through them is also a ‘technical’ skill (although not often on riders’ practice schedules). We managed to negotiate them fairly well, passing many riders in the process.
Erica’s Epic Intervals were designed with the Goudini-Slanghoek section in mind, but I thought they were particularly useful in helping my legs deal with the particular type of pedalling required in sand.
The route deviated into numerous singletrack sections on the mountainsides between Rawsonville and the start of Bain’s Kloof. They were mostly rocky, sandy and unsculpted, resulting in slow progress. A lot of walking was being done.
As expected, the singletrack climb (and descent) starting at Goudini Spa was extremely tough, and also took a long time to get through. There was a welcome water point soon after this, and then the route (once again) took a detour up a gratuitous hill with gnarly terrain. The gnarliness continued until the final waterpoint at the base of Bain’s Kloof, and then the slog started.
Yes, it was on tar, and the gradient isn’t steep, but it seemed to take forever to get to the top. At various points we had a stiff head wind. Eventually we crested (slightly earlier than indicated by the route profile, which must be a first for Cape Epic). Due to head winds, we were having to pedal quite hard to get some speed on the downhill.
About halfway down, we were diverted onto a big gravel descent above Doolhof. Piet graciously let me lead, and in the exhilaration of the descent, I seemed to find my mojo again. It helped that we started overtaking other teams for the first time since starting the Bain’s Kloof climb.
We reached Welvanpas with less than 10km to go, and then had to do some more climbing. With about 5km to go, it seemed all downhill (well, there was a steep descent just ahead of me). At this point, the Tallboy took charge, especially when it spotted another couple of teams just ahead.
Without turning to check with Piet that he was fine with it, I sped up (or, as he put it me at the finish, I behaved like a racehorse that knows it’s headed for home). We passed those riders, and then close to the finish I spotted another few teams ahead. By now, all aches and pains were forgotten; in a completely misdirected and pointless moment of flamboyance I sprinted for 364th position, which is a big improvement on all our stage finishes thus far. Partnership counseling isn’t a premium service currently offered by Cape Epic, but if there were I’d be signing up tonight.
My top tip to average Epic riders (like us) is to start conservatively, and to just ride at a comfortable, steady pace. Thanks to this – and Piet’s strategic riding – we’ve consistently gained positions on every stage since Prologue.
The Time Trial tomorrow will be interesting, and then we have two stages that are more sensible in length.
Hou bene hou!