This might come as a surprise, but the Cape Epic is not one of my favourite races. This is mostly due its ever increasing commercial nature which goes against our perceived ethos of mountain biking which promotes inclusivity instead of exclusivity. Despite the massive infrastructure, very professional organization and exceptional marketing it is very hard to justify the R80,000/€5600/$7000 entry fee per team for an 8-day stage race. Add to that your travel costs, accommodation and any race services and it becomes a luxury that very few can afford.
That being said, there is no denying that the Epic is one of the most renowned and widely publicised MTB events in the world, providing huge potential for sponsors. As such it would be negligence bordering on unprofessionalism from Team Garmin MTB not to participate at the race if given the opportunity.
Apart from these obvious professional reasons and MUCH more significant was that we were invited to be part of the Gear Group for the 2018 Cape Epic. Gus Klöhn is a 10-time Cape Epic finisher and each year he takes 4 or 5 teams to the Epic with an overly dedicated and professional back up squad to look after all our wants and needs during the race. Yolandi and I have been part of this setup before and we jumped at the chance to be part of it again, knowing that the event serves as an opportunity for an extraordinary group of friends to share in a unique experience. Yolandi teamed up with Gus Klöhn while I joined Angus Alexander for our 8 day journey around the Cape.
The race started with a 20km prologue on Table Mountain followed by 4 long days (all between 110km to 122km) around the Robertson valley, into Worcester and on to Wellington. A 40km Time Trial in Wellington preceded the closing stages which consisted of 2 relatively short but sharp stages, both featuring 2000m of climbing in about 70km.
Angus is a property consultant by trade and as an amateur he had put in a lot of training and sacrifices with a top 50 result in mind. We started steady and not only paced ourselves through every day, but also over the 8 days of the race. We raced smart, saving where we could and always riding within ourselves – physically and technically. Were it not for a bit of illness on the last 2 days we would have had a perfect run, but over 8 days of racing we couldn’t have asked for much more. We achieved our goal, crossing the finish line at Val de Vie in 44th place overall and 7th in the Master’s class – not bad for a Pro-am team.
Or at least so we thought until Gus and Yolandi got going… Gus is a seasoned campaigner at the Epic, but this was his first time racing in a mixed team. He just got on with things while Yolandi was always there backing up his efforts. As with all his other Epics Gus went from strength to strength throughout the week and by stage 2 they hit the podium in 3rd place on the day. They followed that up with 2nd on stages 3 and 4, ending the race on the overall podium with a superb 3rd place in the Mixed Category – Impressive stuff! The other teams in our group finished in 56th (Rowan and Gregg Grobler) and 69th (Andrew Grobler and Guylin van den Berg) making it a very successful week for our gang.
Upon reflection it was a memorable 8 days spent in fantastic company with the fine results merely a positive addition to all the banter, laughter and camaraderie amongst a special group of special people.
Next up for Team Garmin MTB will be the Glacier Cradle Traverse around the Cradle of Humankind in the West of Johannesburg. We had a great time at the inaugural event last year and look forward to Dryland’s Highveld event.