On the last stage in 2018, I did a passable impersonation of a horse that’s bolted for home, going pretty much flat-out for the final 40km. It doesn’t often happen that Piet is on my back wheel, but that was one such day. Yesterday, Piet pre-empted that, but setting a strong tempo from the gun as we rode up the Jonkershoek valley first on tar, and then on the gravel road. We knocked off the first 9km in 27 minutes, reaching the top of the first big descent with a clear run down, catching stragglers from the start batch ahead of us as we hit the first singletrack.
Once again, we were climbing, but this time it was very slow, because we were doing it on singletrack. The climbing continued on forest road, until we reached the singletrack above the Land Rover Technical Terrain. Traffic made both of these slower than they needed to be.
After the first water point, we started the climb that would take us over Botmaskop, almost all of which was new to me. The route undulated, but every descent created more work, and when we ascended, the gradient was inevitably in the vicinity of 20 degrees. It was hard work.
Finally, we reached the second water point at the top of the Old Helshoogte pass, where we once again started climbing, effectively skirting the top ends of farms on the Banhoek side of Simonsberg. The uphill singletrack approaching Boschendal (or perhaps already on the property) was again made slow by traffic.
Finishing in one piece is not something one can take for granted. Yesterday, one of the last four lions, Mike Nixon, crashed on the finish line. Had it happened on any other day he’d have been out of the race. Timing is everything, about which I had my reminder overnight, with a stomach lurgy that would certainly have had me out of the event it if had struck early in the week – this morning I’m barely capable of typing a sentence.
We’ve now ridden 24 days of Cape Epic (i.e. three years’ worth) without so much as a flat tyre. My tumble during Prologue this year is the most serious crash we’ve had. The only other visit to medics was for Piet to get a drip after the super hot stage in Hermanus. We’ve been very lucky; it takes more than hard work and endurance to get through this thing.
I’d like to end with a huge thank you to everyone that came to cheer by the route, friends that called or messaged, to our support team, our coach, our families, and the crew that works crazy hours to take care of all the logistics for the event. All we had to worry about was riding our bicycles.