We did 25% of the day’s climbing in the first 10km, and 50% in the first 26km. It’s a tough way to start, so the game plan was to take it easy until about 30km. This was when we started the first of the singletrack, and we would then decide how we would ride. That was the theory.
In practice, Piet was particularly frisky today, even by his standards. In fairness, he had two dreadful days on Monday and Wednesday. Why hold back a man who is on form?
On the initial few climbs I did my best to keep him in sight, although not to the extent of tracking him on the Cape Epic app (he is carrying our tracking device). He waited for me at the tops of climbs, and from the first singletrack we were in closer proximity for the rest of the day.
In keeping up with him, I wouldn’t describe my level of exertion as ‘taking it easy’. We then rode the singletrack at a furious pace, partly because the A-to-Z series above the Grabouw Country Club requires constant effort, and also because we kept having to power past slower riders.
The technical skills (or, lack thereof) of some riders turned into a frustration throughout the stage. I’m not claiming extraordinary skills on our part, but on Epic one would expect something more confident than we encountered. There was so much singletrack on today’s route that it wasn’t the day for patiently sitting it out.
The tactics we employed to pass some riders were much more aggressive than one would expect from a team heading for a position 360 finish on the day.
While we’re being polite it’s probably appropriate to express my gratitude to Cape Epic for not taking us the hard way up Nuweberg. Yesterday’s over-delivery of climbing is forgiven. We’re good.
It is a subject of study by sports scientists that riders’ heart rates drop during Epic. Today my average heart rate was 131. Based on the degree to which I was gasping for breath much of the way, it’s a ride I would usually have done somewhere closer to 140. My maximum today was 161, whereas I would ordinarily have peaked above 170.
In trying to get perspective on why I felt quite as poked as I did, I had a look at the day’s final results. Today we were the 20th Grand Masters team home, having been in the high 30s and 40s all week. That’s what happens when Piet is the captain of the Sergeant Hardy team.
Tonight we’re having a steak dinner, delivered courtesy of the Dish Food & Social team. It’s just the thing to fuel up for a day that has 2750 metres of climbing. Well, that’s the theory.