Absa Cape Epic: Done and dusted

Craig McKune. (Pieter Calitz)

Craig McKune. (Pieter Calitz)

Craig McKune looks back on eight days on a bike riding alongside race partner Rory van Zyl - the good, the bad and the ultimate satisfaction.

I'm writing this on Tuesday morning, after a long Monday clearing email inboxes, attending meetings and trying to make sense of real life again. A colleague asked what the best part of the Absa Cape Epic was, but the memories are a blur. 

My race partner, crank.co.za journo Rory van Zyl, and I rode our bikes together for more than 42 hours in the past eight days. It got hot, cold, muddy, windy. We wheeled along at an average speed of 17km/h. We travelled 718km and climbed nearly 15 000m into the sky.

A few days before the race started, Rory warned: "We are going to go to some pretty dark places." But strangely, I don't remember those.

I remember winding through a Port Jackson forest above Sir Lowry's Pass and hearing a man howling in agony in the woods ahead of us. When we reached him, he was wrapped around a tree, grasping his shoulder, bike on top of him, still yowling.

I remember consistently fighting with the camera mounted to my handlebars. Either it stopped working for no reason, or it swung ineffectively below the bars, or it was caked in mud. I did manage to gather some footage though.

Look out for the shot of Rory using a unique technique to wash the mud from his gears - there's a good memory.

Handle Bar. I remember Sea Point bike shop, the Handle Bar, which served perfectly brewed mugs of coffee to journalists at the race villages in Robertson, Greyton and Elgin.

Green. A stand-out memory was rounding the final turn on day eight and seeing the rolling green lawns of Lourensford, our families cheering as we pedalled slowly across the finish line in 150th position, happy that we had kicked butt, much bad luck aside. But this probably was not our best part.

The best memory was somewhere else. Somewhere deep in a hidden fold of the Western Cape.

It was maybe one of the many moments when our bikes failed; staring haplessly at Rory's perforated tyre; kicking my front derailleur straight; stopping to stretch out a bunched-up hamstring; swearing under my breath as I chased Rory up a nasty climb; silently thanking him once I'd survived a series of these hard efforts and we finished a stage in good time; a long freewheeling singletrack; Piet Calitz hooting and taking photos with one hand as he passed me pushing my broken bike up a mountain pass; chocolate milk, beers and red wine at the finish … 

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