However, for the first time in its history, a stage of Cape Epic was shortened today, from 103km to 62km. Frankly, it was the right thing to do. I neglected to mention yesterday that after stage one the medics’ area was like a war zone. Eventually, riders were being sent to the local hospital for treatment because there just wasn’t capacity to deal with all the injuries, dehydration and other issues.
In March, the Western Cape can have the first of the rainy season’s cold fronts. Winds can be strong, whether south-easterly or north-westerly. Heat waves, as we’ve seen this week, are also possible. However, none of the aforementioned scenarios have the dangers implicit in temperatures approaching – or exceeding – 40 degrees. People die in this kind of heat, and even if they don’t die, the sheer number of affected riders means that the medical facilities can’t cope.
We (i.e. Dish Food & Social) are serving hamburgers in the public area for the Grand Finale at Val de Vie. One of the Cape Epic hoops we had to jump through was the signing of a 12-page Occupational Health and Safety document. That’s for a hamburger.
The health of 1200 riders is a far bigger thing, which illustrates the distinction between a hazard and a risk. Every time I get on my bike there’s a risk that I’ll fall. It may be a risk with relatively low probability, but it can happen. On the other hand, a hazard is a situation with known dangers, against which no protection is put in place. Let me give you another example. The use of various apparatus in a children’s playground has a risk of injury, but when the swing has rusted chain links in a poor state of repair it becomes a hazard.
Piet was a lot stronger today, although not quite his usual indestructible self just yet. He pedalled with care, as did I. Nevertheless, approaching the first water point, I started feeling a bit nauseous and headachy. I walked up most of the steep climb that followed soon after. At the top we stopped to catch our breath. I’d barely finished telling Piet that I was feeling nauseous when I violently expelled the contents of my stomach. It’s the first time I’ve ever vomited during exercise.
I felt quite weak for the next 10km, but then staged a mini bounce-back, thanks to the Octane Gel that Piet’s sister had insisted I carry with me.
There was a time I thought I wasn’t going to make it, and if the route had remained at its original 103km, I’m not sure I would have managed to finish. Or, if I’d finished, I would have ended up with the medics.
The day finished without further incident for us. We were extremely grateful to have an entire afternoon for recovery, rather than just a couple of rushed hours.
Despite the route being chopped at what would have been the second water point, a significant number of riders dropped out.
Tomorrow is going to be another hot day.