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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Epic 2018: Of false tops and fun riding

Oscar Foulkes October 30, 2017 Cape Epic No comments
There are times when going up mountains, whether walking, running or cycling, that one encounters ‘false tops’.

As one reaches new highs, these become vantage points to look back on the journey thus far. Few are more dramatic than cresting the hills along the Wild Coast, because most of the riding is on the beach where perspective is limited. Those vistas that take in ocean, beach and rolling hills are just breathtaking.

In a sense, I’m experiencing the same thing with respect to how my body feels, and what it can do, compared with a year ago (for example, riding the STBB race an hour faster in 2017 than in 2016). Sometimes it’s better to not know what one doesn’t know. Unconscious ignorance can be a good thing.

I must have had rocks in my head to think that embarking on the Cape Epic project would be a good idea so soon after radiotherapy, in addition to not being able to breath properly. Anyway, I did it, which goes to show that this lark is perhaps more mental than it is physical.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

My training ride on Tuesday was supposed to be 90 minutes in Zone 2, which is basically a recovery spin. However, a little seed had been planted when I collected my bike earlier in the afternoon. Justin, who runs the workshop at The Gear Change, had a glint in his eye as we chatted about how the great the Yeti feels on descents.

The first part of my ride was a climb to get onto the mountain at the jeep tracks at the top of Molteno Road. What goes up, has to come down…

As I hit the descents I got into play mode. From Deer Park, the climbing started again, but I forgot about Zone 2. I may not have many people agreeing with me, but that high intensity blitz to the Blockhouse (20-ish minutes) is quite a buzz. I think it helps to understand the context. My training programmes (since May 2016) generally have had very specific parameters. “Go out and have fun,” said very few coaches/trainers ever.

On Thursday, I was back in captivity, with an hour-long Hills session on the Wattbike. In its own way, this was also good, although my admission may cause you to wonder whether I have developed fully blown Stockholm Syndrome.

Saturday’s ride was three-and-a-half hours on the road. It was a magnificent day to be riding alongside the ocean on the Camps Bay-Hout Bay-Chapmans Peak-Noordhoek spin, which I took as far as Black Hill and then turned.

Piet is finally back, so we went out to Durbanville for an intended four-hour ride on Sunday. The Tygerberg MTB trails are sensational, although one requires The Knowledge to navigate the connecting sneaks to make it one big ride, rather than three small ones. We started at Contermanskloof, riding to the top to meet up with the members-only corridor to Meerendal. There, we basically went straight up the hill/mountain with the hope of riding down to Hoogekraal on the same route we did for the Epic Prologue. However, the gate was closed, so we had to descend again.

Descending from the very top of Meerendal is no hardship. To start, there are magnificent views in every direction, but particularly towards Table Mountain, and that’s before one gets into innumerable berms and corners.

We ended up having to ride to Hoogekraal on the tar, entering at pretty much the same point we did for the Prologue. The major climb on Hoogies is Spykers Hill, which is not the hardest in the Western Cape, but it’s one of the more interesting. It’s all on singletrack, with a large number of corners and switchbacks (admittedly, not the trickiest to ride). On Sunday, I rode it nearly a minute faster than during Epic, so I got another perspective on how my body has changed. And, my average heart rate was 156, as opposed to 170 on the Prologue.

One of the features of an Epic team is that it’s a surprisingly intimate relationship for one that involves two men on bicycles (I can’t comment on women’s teams), often in the absence of any verbal communication. It would say that our team is more taciturn than most, in my case, for the purely practical reason that I’m occasionally incapable of producing a sound.

Having reached the top of Hoogekraal, this mystical male interface determined that we needed to cut the ride short. We bombed down the long singletrack run (again faster than on Epic), but still had a lot of climbing ahead of us to get back to Contermanskloof.

We ended up riding about three hours instead of four. Although the climbs in Durbanville may not be the highest, they are steep, so what we lost in time we made up for in intensity.

20 weeks to go.

I grabbed this pic of mountain biking in Durbanville from iRide, who do great skills training sessions. If you ride the trails, please join the club and ride with the bike board.

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