Monthly Archives: March 2017

My report on @CapeEpic. @GarminSA

The Cape Epic is one of the biggest and most followed mountain bike stage races in the world. With the event taking place on home soil, it’s always great to be part of it.

This year I was back racing alongside Theresa Ralph thanks to sponsors Garmin, Galileo Risk and Gear Group who covered our costly entry and made it possible for us to be on the start line.

The 2017 route was set to consist of 691 kilometres and 15 400m of vertical gain but extreme heat saw the total distance shortened by 40km (and 850 m of vertical gain) for the first time in history on stage 2. In the bigger picture only a small chunk was removed, but it surely made for some big discussions afterwards. Personally, I took a beating from illness and was only too thankful for the discount on suffering.

The 26 km prologue on day one was again held at Meerendal Wine Estate. From there it was on to Hermanus for the opening 101km stage. The next day riders left the local high school to finish the shortened 62km stage at Caledon instead of Greyton.  Stage three’s 78km route started and finished in Greyton followed by the longest stage in the Epic which took riders from Greyton to the Oak Valley Wine Estate over 112km.  Stages 5 and 6 were laid out in the Elgin valley and surrounding area, with the latter forming the Queen stage – 103km with 2750 m of elevation gain. Stage 7 took riders to a new Grand Finale Venue at the Val de Vie Estate near Paarl.

On the morning of the prologue I woke up with some minor flu symptoms but wrote it off as pre-race nerves. If only it was the case… Racing a prologue mid-day in scorching temperatures didn’t help and by nightfall I couldn’t ignore the symptoms any longer and had to accept my fate.

The days that followed were a battle, not only against the challenges the course and weather conditions had thrown at us, but also against my own body. Mentally and physically it was just a tough week (and I’m sure I’m not the only one with war stories to tell) but having a supportive teammate and supporting crew is without a doubt what kept me in the race.

Theresa was and is an incredible partner. She always stayed positive and never made me feel like I was holding the team back despite it being blatantly obvious. She motivated me along and made me feel like a real trooper for hanging in despite my illness. She kept the built-up tears at bay with her charismatic humour before, during and after each stage.

Obviously every rider has his/her own ambitions for an event and makes plenty of sacrifices to be in good form at the Epic. Yet when I wasn’t up to the challenge Theresa pushed her own ambitions and disappointments aside and instead decided to focus on the positive – which was to get us to the finish line. Experiencing this team ethic firsthand from Theresa as well as the amazing support from our crew made the Epic worth all the sweat and tears.

After the completion of each stage we got transferred back to our accommodation where homemade sandwiches lay in wait.  All our home cooked meals were freshly prepared for us, our laundry was washed, we got treated to daily massages and the logistical arrangements were all sorted out. I felt like a VIP and have to admit I’ve never been so spoiled at any event in my life.

My Epic 2017 will always be remembered not for the racing but the camaraderie of Theresa and the unbelievable support I received from our Epic crew. Thanks Mr. Charmain and co for the wonderful opportunity and for sharing the experience with me!

#TeamGarminMTB report on the @PEPlett stage race. @GarminSA @benmelt

The PEPlett 4 day stage race is an event that we’ve become quite fond of, mostly because we’ve always come away from the event with a pleasant experience regardless of the end result or the weather conditions which have been quite challenging in recent years.  The 5th edition of the PEPlett proved no different especially as the organizers, Red Cherry Adventures, moved the race from September to February allowing for MUCH better weather in which to enjoy the event.

As the name suggest the event takes place between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay. Every year the event changes direction with the 2017 route leading us away from Woodridge Primary School just outside of Port Elizabeth to finish 4 days later at de Vasselot Rest Camp, east of Plettenberg Bay.

The 314km in-between was all but smooth ‘pedalling’ with the stages presenting a variety of challenges. We had sandy patches, rocky sections, singletrack, mountains, forests and farmland to negotiate, but no matter how sweet or sour the riding got, the ever changing scenery, rider camaraderie and race village atmosphere made the effort worthwhile. 

Between start and finish we stayed over at Zuurbron Village for some warm local farmer’s hospitality before moving on to the magical setting of the Assegaaibosch Country Lodge on the outskirts of Kareedouw. This was a particularly tough day as the testing route was exacerbated by a howling wind which seemed to do it’s best to blow us back to where we came from. From there we raced to the Tsitsikamma Falls Adventure Village which was our final race village.

Ben Melt and I had a consistent race placing 2nd on each stage to finish 2nd overall in the mixed category. A week prior to the event we were still unsure about our participation due to an injury that I sustained at Tankwa Trek, so finishing on the podium was truly a bonus as completing the race was our main priority.

With the field limited to 200 riders PEPlett creates a comfortable and friendly race village experience and with the organisers being so passionate and personal the event makes you feel like more than just a number. All this is sure to translate into success and we look forward to PEPlett becoming a firm fixture on the SA mountain biking calendar.