March 2012 will see Claire Beaumont and Collyn Ahart taking to the start line of the gruelling and challenging Absa Cape Epic, an eight day mountain bike stage race around the wilds of South Africa.
And they’ll be blogging their journey to the start line, which starts today, right here on Bikemagic. We’ll get an insight into their training, their preparation, the skills they’ll need to learn to tackle the race and survive, through the medium of words, photos and video.
First, a little introduction:
When you grow up with bikes, it’s easy to forget how much there is still to learn. With my father as a mechanic, I’ve known the feel of grease and the powdery explosion of talc, the stale coffee and fresh rubber wafting in the air. These things were the senses of my childhood and even to this day when I walk into a bike shop I feel like I’m going home.
In a way, I have a sensory knowledge of cycling, but when it comes to even some of the basics like taking my pedals off, or the physics of a shock fork, I’m a total novice. That’s what happens when you grow up with a personal mechanic who “just makes it work". The dirt and grime never scared me, but actually diving down the hill or fixing a flat meant minor heart attacks.
It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered cycling for myself. I wasn’t doing it because my dad did it. Or because of a boyfriend. I was doing it for me. Like most women, I went for the safety of a road bike and fair-weather riding. Summer weekends were filled with miles of tarmac and sun-drenched pub lunches buried in the hills around the outskirts of London. But the ride wasn’t enough.
I had a nagging feeling there was something more for me in cycling. I wanted to race. So I upgraded my trusty steel Waterford to a carbon race frame and started putting in the miles. Rain or shine, I wanted to be fast. Childhood memories of Tour watching dangled in my mind.
And I got fast…ish. I became friends with some amazing women. I even bagged myself a few top-tens and a fast new boyfriend with lots of wheels and legs of steel. But I wanted to learn more... to truly find my limits. In April this last year, said man of steel took off to South Africa to race in the Absa Cape Epic. It seemed crazy. Everyone said he was crazy. A mentalist. Eight days of mountain bike racing? Across South Africa? Got to be a madman?
But I was hooked. What was this magical race all about? How come there were so few women doing it? A natural endurance rider, it seemed like exactly my cup of tea. There was just one small problem: I was 15 the last time I sat on a mountain bike.
Step one: enter the race; step two: figure out the details of actually riding it.
Media entry accepted I needed to find a team mate crazy enough to join me, step forward Claire Beaumont. One of the best cyclo-cross racers in the county and a team mate for Rapha Condor on the road, she’s notoriously willing to drop off muddy embankments at full pace and still capable of cracking jokes the whole way down. She’s the kind of team mate you know will follow you over anything and will lead you when it all goes pear-shaped.
With sponsorship from a handful of brands willing to take a risk on two novice mountain bikers, we’re about to tackle the Cape Epic 2012 beast head on. Scott UK is kindly providing us with two sets of amazing full-suss Contessa Sparks to train and race on. Howies are keeping us warm and well-dressed for a winter of cold, muddy training adventures around the wilds of England and Wales. Garmin are keeping us on the correct trails and helping us track our progress.
Some of the top UK riders are going to be helping us out with advice and skill sessions and we’ll be posting all of it right here on Bike Magic: videos, photos and weekly writing about our training, tips and adventures in all its muddy glory, mistakes and bruises. From roadies to off-road racers in 7 months? Bring it.
What is the Absa Cape Epic?
The Absa Cape Epic is an eight day mountain bike stage around South Africa, starting and finishing in Cape Town. It’s one of the most physically demanding, gruelling and challenging races on the planet.
In 2012 the race will push competitors to their limits on a course that weaves through 800km of punishing terrain and over 15,000m of climbing. And then there's the heat. It’s also one of the biggest events in the world, with over 1,200 riders taking to the start line every year. And nowhere else do world cup racers and amateurs rub shoulders.
Find out more about the event here www.cape-epic.com