Absa Cape Epic: Seven hours in the saddle
Stage One, Robertson
Total climbing: 2 450m
#$@*?!!! that was hard. That was really tough. Stage One did come with a nasty reputation; there were many horrible warnings (I think the course designer Leon "Dr Evil" Evans said something like: "It's easy, except for between water points one and three, which is hell."), but holy $%*@ moly. I'm dead.
We started this morning at Arabella Wines, just outside Robertson. The route was more or less a loop around the valley, stringing together the steepest, loosest roads available in far-off, beautiful places that I did not know existed. As my race partner Rory van Zyl said, it would have been lovely for hiking. I pointed out that in fact we did do a lot of hiking, pushing our bikes up the hills. He clarified that he prefers to hike without a bike.
The day started ominously. We passed top cyclists Nic Lamond and Hannes Hannekom fixing a torn tyre within minutes of the start. Five minutes later, we passed leading lady Annika Langvad frantically trying to fix a flat, tv camera rammed in her face. Ten minutes after that, we passed Annika's team mate Ariane Kleinhans, trundling back along the road. Normally one of the most cheerful people I've seen, she looked like she had steam coming from her ears.
Mountain biking is a ridiculous sport, really. There is so much that can go wrong, there's almost no point taking it too seriously unless you are a pro, and if you are pro, you just have to deal.
So five minutes after that, Rory's tyre began to spray tyre sealant all over my face as I trailed him. Three punctures and 10 minutes of faffing trying to fix it. Later, more punctures, more sealant spraying. All in all, we spent about an hour on the side of the road wrestling with flats. Then, round about halfway, my legs all but fell from my body, and poor Rory had to nurture me over two very high mountains and over 30km of Karoo farm track.
Tuesday sees us tackle 101km but luckily "only" 1 550m of climbing. Word on the street is that there is some awesome singletrack and 30mm of rain while we ride. Can't wait.