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Epic 2018: Beware of death by a thousand cuts

Oscar Foulkes October 15, 2017 Cape Epic No comments
It’s a rainy Sunday morning. According to YR, the afternoon will be dry, so I can park myself on the couch for the morning with clear conscience, although, to be honest, I’ve seldom allowed conscience to get in the way of slothing on the couch.

The focal point of this week’s riding was yesterday’s 80km Java MTB. The start was at Van Loveren, but the race took place on the McGregor side of the Breede River. It’s mostly on Epic routes, which was the primary attraction.

The trip to Robertson was also an opportunity to spend a night with my mother, and to look at the yearlings she’ll be selling next year. Sometimes the overlap between MTB and horse events works, but I’ll miss Attakwas next year because of a clash with a yearling auction. Similarly, I’ll miss day one of a November three-day training camp because of an auction.

After the relatively easy previous week, I was back on the Wattbike on Tuesday, for a Super Interval session. After a warm-up, there’s four minutes in zone 5 followed by 50 seconds at maximum and another four minutes in zone 5. Then six minutes of recovery spinning before doing it all over again. Four reps in total.

Thursday was supposed to be an easy hour(ish), but chores got in the way. I thought it was something I could get away with not doing (sorry, Erica).

The Daisyway team was out in full force for the Java race, with the intention that we’d all ride as a group. However, my participation in group activities somehow didn’t happen. I felt so comfortable for the first five or ten kilometres that I didn’t notice I had pulled clear of them. Then I got caught up with a group of much younger riders who were going at bit of a pace. I eventually realised that I was probably pushing harder than I should have, but I didn’t dare get caught by ‘Mr Steady Pace’ Spook, so I just kept going.

He would have had choice words for me if he had. I couldn’t have ridden the race at that pace and survived the rest of Epic, well not at current levels of fitness.

The Java MTB route doesn’t have any really big climbs. Instead, there are many mini climbs. Because the route allows for generally good momentum there’s a risk of riding the climbs harder than one would if they were bigger. As one rider put it to me yesterday, it’s like burning matches. By the time I reached the finish yesterday, I felt as if I may as well have ridden over Groenlandberg, and all we’d done was 1500m of climbing.

Seeing as this will largely be Stage Two of Epic 2018, I need to also mention a section called Bosvark, a 9.5km twisting and turning singletrack that works its way up a kloof and then back down the other side. It gives the impression of being recently constructed, so it’s quite loose in places. Yesterday, we reached it after about 60km, and it was an unpleasant grind. On Epic, it’s the Land Rover technical section, about 80km in. I can’t see it being any more fun than it was yesterday.

Queen stages get all the attention, but don’t underestimate riding 110km on this terrain. With a lot of work still to be done on the remaining five stages, overcooking it on Stage Two could amount to death by a thousand cuts.

Update: When I did the three hour road ride late in the afternoon, my legs were toast, so I definitely overdid it slightly during the Java MTB (perhaps I should have said my legs were roasted?). One thing I forgot to mention is that part of the route goes through Stephan Viljoen’s farm, Steenboksvlakte, where he’s built some great singletrack. Stephan is the brother of my Epic partner Piet, so there’s all kinds of familiarity to the route (not that it makes it any easier that parts of it are a home game).

My mother's paddocks at Normandy Stud are on Arabella. From 18 March this will be the race village for three nights.

My mother’s paddocks at Normandy Stud are on Arabella. From 18 March this will be the race village for three nights.

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