Lately I’ve been trekking from one event to the next only to find myself back where it all started after more than 4 weeks on the road. As I sit here, I feel fortunate to be able to reflect on the good memories made along the way.
My journey started with the Garden Route 300 in Knysna, then it was onwards to Cape Town for the Cape Town Cycle Tour the following weekend and finally I lined up for the Absa Cape Epic.
This opportunity came about towards the end of last year when Theresa Ralph asked me if I would team up with her for the Epic and race as Team Galileo Risk (Theresa’s sponsor). With the blessing of my sponsor (Garmin) I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and so the preparation started for the 13th edition of the Absa Cape Epic.
The 8-day stage race started with a 26km prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville on the 13th of March. The following 7 stages took riders to Tulbagh, Wellington, Boschendal and back to Meerendal Wine Estate for the Grand Finale.
The 652km route might have been the shortest in history, but it included more single-trails (110km) and climbing (15 100m) than ever before. This made for a very challenging Epic as single trails and ascents often take longer to navigate than open, flat gravel roads. Luckily both Theresa and I enjoy climbing which was a step in the right direction.
The Tankwa Trek 3 day stage race marked our first outing together as a team. The event took place a month before the Epic and here we managed to find our groove. This allowed us to go into the Epic and simply apply what we’d figured out works best for us as a team.
From the start Theresa and I were on the same page and we rode consistently throughout the Epic. We understood each other, respected each other and had a very positive influence on one another. This along with the unbelievable support we received from our backup crew (Gear Group) and mechanical crew (Cutting Edge and Dunkeld Cycles) all contributed to our performance and enjoyment of the event.
During a week-long stage race where you spend so many hours on your bike under extreme pressure and in all conditions, you are extremely lucky if all goes to plan. Even though we had our moments to keep us on our toes, we were fortunate not to have any major hassles. On stage 1 I cut my tire’s sidewall a mere 9km into the stage leaving us with a daylong chase and on stage 4 Theresa’s front shock collapsed requiring a quick stop at the tech zone to fix it. On stage 6 we both came down on “the slippery bridge” of the day. The previous night’s rain left the bridge rather wet and it only took a couple of the front rider’s muddy tyre tracks to turn the bridge into an ice sheet. The fact that the bridge was built at an angle and placed just before a tight left hand turn didn’t help and left me, Theresa and the two guys behind us skiing sideways across it. It was actually a relief to hear that the 4 of us weren’t the only riders whose ice-skating ability weren’t up to scratch.
Fun and games aside, the unfortunate crash left Theresa with a broken spoke and me with a painful knee which would luckily only affect me on the final day.
The last stage turned out to be the hardest battle of all. A stomach bug kept Theresa awake the entire night and left her with a drained body to fight the final 85km to Meerendal. I wasn’t of much help either as I struggled to push hard on the pedal with my injured knee. We soldiered on regardless and were very relieved to finally cross the finish line.
We lost a lot of time to our competitors that day and even started to make peace with losing our 5th place overall. Fortunately the hard fought battle wasn’t all in vain and we managed keep our overall general classification placing despite our troubles.
The harder you fight for something to more you appreciate it and man were we happy to officially finish in 5th place overall at the Absa Cape Epic. We were also the first African ladies team home and both Theresa and I are looking forward to seeing the African Ladies leaders jersey’s added to the rest of the Epic race categories in 2016.