Words: Rachel Fenton
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What a 36 hours! Now sitting in my flat in South London the Cape Epic seems like a complete dream. I had a mad dash to get back in time for another stint in college (I’m training to be an accountant for my sins) so after the final stage I literally packed up my bike and bags, went to the airport, and got the overnight flight back to London. My ankles are not very happy with me!
Anyway I digress. The final stage of the Epic was short, a mere 54km with 1500m of climbing. My mad stage 6 ride moved me up a pen or two so I was now being gridded with none other than Stephen Roche – who I had proudly passed the previous day. I hope there are a good few photos of our start we did some good funny poses. I had intended to have another hard day and see how much further forward I could get but as we headed out of Stellenbosch it became clear to me I had done some damage to my legs riding hard on stage 6 – bad stage racer. To top it off there was a mental headwind so by the top of the first hill I had decided I might as well just enjoy the ride.
Stage 7 was basically a big triangle. Up a mountain pass and down the other side (with a few wiggles to keep it interesting). The scenery was beautiful. We could see Table Mountain in the distance and the pass we climbed was covered in tiny flowers in a madly broad variety of colours. As Stephen passed me on an insanely steep gradient for the umpteenth time that day and I over estimated what my legs could do again, tumbling onto my already bruised side I couldn’t help being reminded of his cycling history. I felt more like Roche must have done on the climb to La Plagne and in a curious twist of fate he was my Delgado! They do say that the Cape Epic is the Tour de France of mountain biking after all.
Yet again the stage was made by the singletrack descents down into the Lourensford Wine Estate. In the UK you usually go to a trail centre to ride built singletrack, in the Western Cape it seems like every bit of woodland has a crafted trail through it, usually with a name written on a wooden board. It seems like there must be a great community of bikers down there. Many of who were riding the epic and were keen to tell me all about their local trails.
Riding the last few kilometres into the Estate was, yet again, pretty emotional. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get from having conquered the demons of the Epic. The heat, the distance, the terrain. It felt a bit odd crossing the line alone in a sea of pairs. But Collyn was there at the side ready to give me a big hug. We wished that things had gone differently and she could have been there too.
Now to the best thing about finishing the Cape Epic. As you head out of the finishing pen you are given a voucher, which you can then exchange at the Woolworths area (something like African M&S) for a picnic hamper. This big yellow cool bag is overflowing with scrummy food, enough for two people at least. So for a few minutes, Collyn and I gorged ourselves silly.
In having to leave so quickly I did miss out on the other Epic tradition (apart from lying on my back on the streets of Cape Town with my medal round my neck) of Stage 9 – the afterparty. With all those kilometres in their legs most riders must make cheap dates post Epic.
Follow me on twitter @Fentinator or read my blog www.rachelfenton.blogspot.com
Full results from the Epic can be found on the 2013 Absa Cape Epic website.
Thanks to Canyon Bikes UK for supplying Rachel’s test bike.