The road to Cape Epic 2012: A look at the route

David Arthur David Arthur

Go on,  scare yourself: The 2012 Absa Cape Epic route has been announced.

Fear is a great motivator. It makes waking up in the morning a little more interesting. Apparently, because of our larger hippocampus (the bit of brain responsible for memory) women register unpleasantness with greater vividness than men; and sharing geography with the Amygdala (the bit of brain responsible for fear), fear and unpleasantness have a lot in common. (Don’t quote me on any of this, I stopped taking science courses about age 17.)

People develop fears as a result of learning: like being afraid of the dark because there’s a movie that tells us to be afraid of the dark. (Or rather, not to be, but their logic just doesn’t hold.) It can also be a result of a traumatic experience: You get bitten by a goose as a child and just like that, waterfowl are evil.

There are cultural fears: these are the fears propagated and amplified through media myths… like being afraid of terrorists or clowns. These sometimes lead to phobias, whereby basic human rationality drops out the window and the whole world will end if you eat a piece of banana. For example.

And then there’s the fear that comes from learning the route of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic. Not a classic fear, this fear is nestled in nicely with adrenaline and self-esteem and all sorts of other confusing chemical reactions.

Having never done a mountain bike race before, I have almost nothing to compare this route to. The greatest distance I’ve ever done on a bike in a single day was 330 km on a road bike, riding between Seattle and Portland. It was fairly flat. There was no rain. It wasn’t very hot out. So this fear is palpable.

Claire and I will be riding each stage as a duo, and unlike road racing, the group will separate fairly quickly so we’ll likely be pretty much out on our own for most of the stages.

The Prologue: By far the tamest of the stages at only 27km and with 800m of climbing, this  team time trial will also be one of the fastest stages with each team going out guns blazing to secure better seeding times the following day. I fully expect we’ll go out too hard.

Stage 1: The first of the big stages at 115km and 2350m of climbing, this Robertson to Robertson loop is going to be a very tough one. The first of the three climbs of the day is 3km covered in loose boulders and gets up to 25% justifying all the running over the coming months. (You won’t find us running around Wimbledon Common carrying our Scott Sparks on our shoulders just for *fun*….)

Stage 2: Another Robertson to Robertson 119km and 1650m climbing, this is supposed to be one of the prettier stages. “A geologist’s paradise” or somesuch. Not sure we’ll notice.

Stage 3: Just for fun, the longest stage in Absa Cape Epic history (!) at 147km and 2900m of climbing between Robertson and Caledon, this stage will be the hardest ride of our lives. Up and down several tricky climbs and fast descents over big loose rocks and shale… I’ve worked out that if we can survive this, we might just qualify as “climbers” when the road season commences. Note the ‘if’.

Stage 4: Though I’m thinking this should be a relative walk in the park at *only* 105km and 2600m of climbing, apparently this is going to be a very tough stage of exposure to scorching sun, brutal technical climbing and winding narrow singletrack.

Stage 5: 119km and 2350m of climbing between Calendon and Oak Valley, this is supposed to be the singletrack-heaven stage with some (much needed) “flowing” trails and stunner views.

Stage 6: As we come into the closing stages of the race, the 85km and 2200m of climbing are going to be deceptively hard. Luckily, there is 30km of steady dual track riding through the Cape Nature Reserve and as we ride into the finish, the looming peak of Groenlandberg will appear.

Stage 7: Between Oak Valley and Lourensford, we’ll finish the race with this 65km, 1350m stage of singletrack. We’ll be absolutely ruined by then. But apparently there are going to be some stunning views. Hence the need for a head-cam. We might not actually fully appreciate it until the wine tasting commences the following day.

Read about the Absa Cape Epic 2012 route here.

www.cape-epic.com

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