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Epic 2018: Work to be done

Oscar Foulkes September 24, 2017 Cape Epic No comments
The 2018 Absa Cape Epic route was revealed this week. The big feature that jumped out at me is that Stages One to Four are all in excess of 110km, with Stage Three weighing in at a lengthy 122km. It’s little consolation that none of the seven stages has more than 2000m of climbing (unlike 2017’s five stages that comfortably exceeded this).

Throughout those four days, I’m sure, my attention will be fixated on Stage Five’s 39km time trial. Riders that are aiming for podium will be racing. Guys like us will maintain a comfortable enough pace to get us through the stage without risking elimination. From this perspective, it’s looking like a ‘rest’ day.

There’s plenty of familiarity to the route. The Prologue is on trails that I have ridden dozens of times (although not necessarily in this configuration). The race village for the first three nights will occupy my mother’s paddocks (Normandy Stud is on land that is part of Arabella). And, the finish is at Val de Vie, where we are responsible for all hospitality (the Polo Club restaurant, as well as events in the ballroom).

So far, so good, but pain will also be a familiar feature of those eight days. We all have different ways of coping with discomfort; what works for me is to see it as transient. As long as I keep moving, the minutes and miles tick by. Before I know it, a point of relief has been reached.

Of course, the best strategy is to be as fit and strong as possible. This year, Erica Green is training us. Apart from the physical benefit of the training, having a documented training regimen takes all negotiation out of whether one wants to go out on a training ride or, indeed, what one does while on the bike.

To be honest, those four 110+km days are a pretty big incentive to do the work. I really don’t want to be out there for nine hours a day. With this in mind, I’m pleased that I’ve got the 230km (in one stage) of TransBaviaans under my belt.

Both of this weekend’s rides involved big distances on the road, with plenty of climbing stipulated. I joined a new group for the Saturday ride, which was supposed to be 120km. However, due to very strong headwinds, the peloton turned early, so I got in just 91km. This counted as the 80km ride, but I still needed to do the 120km, which I ended up doing today. Spending five hours alone on the road – with beautiful views as consolation – was a major test of resolve, especially on tired legs because of riding harder than intended yesterday.

This may fall into the category of TMI. However, seeing as I’m sharing the experience of preparing for – and riding – Cape Epic, I’d be remiss in glossing over this particular bit of discomfort. For the past week, or so, I’ve had an infected area in the part of my behind that bears my weight on the saddle. It seems to be a large-ish boil thing surrounded by a several smaller members of its family. The quickest way to get them to heal is to lance them. The problem is that I’m incapable of clapping eyes on that part of my body, and at the moment I’m home alone. If I already were on Epic I could wander over to the Bum Clinic, where a nurse would cheerfully take care of the treatment without any damage to dignity. It seems too minor an ailment to trouble the emergency room at my local hospital (although it would add nicely to the list of craziness for which members of my family have been treated there after hours).

Despite this relatively minor ailment, compared with the state of my body a year ago, I feel great, for which I’m hugely grateful.

Regardless of all the months of preparation, we have no control over the conditions. Heat, cold, wind or rain can make Epic even more epic. There may be a day that one’s body is just having an off day.

There’s a reason why it’s described as “eight days of courage”.

“Work to be done” is the ‘Epic mantra’ shared with me by Mark Pienaar

No matter the pain in one's legs; cycling over Chapman's Peak is one of the world's great treats.

No matter the pain in one’s legs; cycling over Chapman’s Peak is one of the world’s great treats.

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