Sport

Absa Cape Epic: Mud, glorious mud

Craig McKune

After a night of heavy rains, Craig McKune figures out why cyclists shave their legs.

Luca Zanasca (left) from Italy climbing a mountain pass during stage 2 of the 2014 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. (Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

Stage two, still in Robertson|
Distance: 101km
Total climbing: 1 550m

The long-predicted rain finally came down last night, all night. Between dodging dripping water and checking for pools in the tent, there was not much sleep to be had. Add that to fatigued legs from a horrendous stage one the day before, and waiting at the start in the pouring rain at 7am, a cold, muddy hell was laid out before us.

Although the good people at Torq Zone Cycles – one of a travelling circus of bike mechanics that follow the Epic from village to village – had serviced my bike, replaced my gear cables and gotten my bike working again, everything was jammed with mud just two minutes from the start.

Two inches of mud, five inches, big puddles. At one point I started travelling sideways, and when I eventually gained traction I was faced the wrong way and hurtled into a grape vine.

This stage was labelled as an "easy" stage; fast and flowing; all that stuff, but it was slow and difficult. But also awesome. I love riding through Karoo landscapes – the low scrub, the hard-packed clay … granted it was hard packed into my gears, chain and tyres, which takes me on a diversion regarding shaved legs.

Last night I bumped into Kevin Vermaak, the man who founded and still runs this race. His gaze immediately honed in on my hairy limbs: "You must be the highest-ranked rider here with hairy legs." I've yet to hear a plausible reason for why cyclists shave their legs. I think it's because of most of us are obsessed with them, our gun shows, and when they are smooth, the muscle definition is clearer for those who care to pay attention to leg muscle definition (mainly just the cyclist in question).

Anyway, my diversion is this: I found a good reason for leg shaving – mud. I must have carried about an extra half a kilogram of mud today, just in my leg hairs.

I'll stop writing now, and I won't tell you about the fluids my partner Rory used to clean his mud-caked gears, somewhere in the wilds of the Little Karoo.

Oh, I wanted to add that we had a lot of fun on Tuesday. We kept a steady and strongish pace, and clawed back a few places. We're not sure we're ranked … but we don't really care. Not really. Okay, we kind of do.

Wednesday sees us taking on the longest day in this years Epic, a whopping 134km transition from Robertson to Greyton.

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