The pros at the pointy end of the field are on form – or close to it – almost all the time. For the rest of us, there are days we just have to suffer through. If they are having a bad day they lose five or ten minutes. We can lose 30-60 minutes.
For me, today was that day.
A mountain bike stage comprising 111km and 2700m of climbing (this may be the key number in conjunction with the distance) is never going to be easy. Our plan was to ride conservatively, maintaining a steady pace up the climbs, aiming to average about 15km/h for the stage, which would have seen us home in roughly seven hours. It’s a long day by comparison with the pro riders, who whizzed around the course in under four-and-a-half hours, but it sets us up for a week of steady improvement.
We reached the 60km mark in four hours, so bang on target. Actually, we were slightly ahead of the curve, because by that point we’d done more than half the climbing (the climbing on today’s stage was very much front-loaded). However, the next 35km became an exercise in survival for me.
From the final water point, we had a mostly downhill 20km to the finish. I’d dosed myself with a sugary gel, and also pushed handfuls of ice into my bib shorts, which cooled my quads. I was back in the game, relatively speaking. Piet, on the other hand, started cramping.
It was our second longest day of Epic, ever, exceeded in length only by stage one in 2017, when Piet cramped on that very hot Hermanus stage. We missed our seven hour target by more than 40 minutes. I think he’s going to petition to change Hermanus’ name to Cramp City.
Tomorrow we head for Grabouw. It’s a shorter day, with significantly less climbing, so we’re hoping for a better outcome.
We’re busy sipping glasses of Restless River Chardonnay (continuing the theme of drinking wine from the areas we ride through), while looking out over the ocean as the sun sets. Life is feeling a lot more bright than it did at 2.00 this afternoon!