I’m finding it difficult to believe I did it. I rode the Cape Epic. I wish Claire had been able to cross the finish line with me, but for every turn and hill and descent, I knew she was right there with me in spirit for the last four and a half stages.
Now that I’m back at home, sleeping in my own comfortable bed, taking the tube to work, drinking my good London coffee again, I keep getting pangs of depression, wishing it wasn’t all over. I woke up this morning and my first question to my boyfriend was “do I need to do anything to my bike?” It’s a disease that’s slow to fade.
My body went through so much pain and suffering I dropped 3kg and a full dress size in less than two weeks. My digestive system shut down. My skin is three shades of burned. My left hand is still in a permanent claw.
But for all the pain, exhaustion and frustration, riding the Cape Epic was worth every second of every minute. I loved it. I loved the hills. I loved the heat and the wind. I even managed to love the rain and cold. I loved the spirit and vibe in the dining tent every evening. I loved the way the local communities came out and called me “sister!” as I climbed past them. The Absa Cape Epic was not just mountain bike racing at its best; it’s sport at its best.
There were a few things that stood out, and few people and organizations I just wanted to say are ace.
The media logistics team: none of us could have had the race we did without Rob, Marion, Kirsten, Leila or Tanya. You managed to get us from place to place. You took care of Claire when she crashed. You are all truly ace and deserve a lot more credit than I’m sure you receive.
Woolworth’s SA: everything from the morning coffee and race buffs, the post-race “Top-Up Meals” to the mid-race water stops, the Woolies support was the stuff race dreams are made of. The food was incredible, planned to perfection, with the exact mix of random food cyclists crave on an 8 hour race: salty rice cakes, plenty of Coca Cola, Marmite sandwiches, fruit loaf, gummy sweets and buttery, salty potatoes. If any brand has set a benchmark for how to create brilliant brand awareness and genuine love through event sponsorship, it’s these guys.
Craft: so often, race-branded kit and swag is a little sub-par. Craft really raised the bar with beautifully designed race kit, solid rider bags and leader jerseys you’d actually aspire to wear.
Oakley: many of us wondered where the awesome new Absa Cape Epic branding came from. Well, it was thanks to creative minds at Oakley. The new identity takes the Epic to a whole new level of sophistication and makes me proud to be a mountain biker! It’s not just the roadies who get to have all the style!
Our sponsors: Scott, Rapha, Garmin and even Howies whose massive towels kept us in good form running to and from the showers. I had no mechanical trouble whatsoever, not even a puncture. Even on the rainy day when people were dipping their bikes in puddles to keep them rolling, my Scott Spark Contessa kept humming along perfectly. It handled brilliantly on the rocky descents. I was even asked several times if I was a downhill racer because I kept passing so many people on the technical drops. That’s confidence in a bike for you!
I wouldn’t have made it through the race without my Rapha bib shorts. Although a men’s fit, they kept me riding with minimal bum-damage. And while everyone else was cowering in the cold at water stop two on stage five, I was kept upright by my Rapha merino arm warmers and rain jacket. A toast to British winter kit designs.
The massage team: the men and women who poked and prodded our muscles back to life every evening were a god-send. But they didn’t just work the massage tents. In the morning they were checking riders into our start pens and then throughout the day, they were out on the course cheering us on! Truly, truly ace.
All the other riders. With few exceptions, the other riders on the course were awesome. When Claire went down, countless stopped to offer their assistance. They helped me out when they knew I was on my own, protecting me from horrific head-winds and helping me get up impossible climbs. You made the race wonderful.
The pro women of the Cape Epic: Sally, Ester, Ariane… and all the others… you inspire me and dozens of women and girls like me. Thank you. You deserve a lot more credit and support than you probably get.
It’s because of these people… I leave you with this: 2013.
Photo Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS