Absa Cape Epic: Finding our groove

A line of riders during stage 4 at the Oaks Estate in Greyton. (Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

A line of riders during stage 4 at the Oaks Estate in Greyton. (Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

Stage 4, Greyton

Distance: 88km

Climbing: 1 800m

Position: 160 of 600

Five days under the belt. Knees are sore. Lower back is crying for a massage.
My bike saddle is starting to feel like a cheese grater.

But I've still got a furious appetite, which is a big thing for me on a stage race. Usually when we are this deep in, I quiver in a corner and fight off the nausea come dinner time. On Wednesday, my tastes swung away from vegetarian. Biltong, chicken mayonnaise, cold meats on a sarmie, rare steak off of a braai, two boerie rolls – all in less than 24 hours.

And just in case any of those quasi-biblical Tim Noakes fans get excited, I've also slammed down massive pieces of rye bread, door-stopper slabs of cheddar, onion jam, several portions of cannelloni, numerous chocolate milkshakes, several delicious glasses of red wine and draft beer, and a few slices of Greyton-baked apple pie.

I've said this before about bike races: one of my favourite parts are the classes of schoolchildren screaming as we wheel through far-flung villages, the farm workers who lean on their fences and root for us with slow claps and shouts, families on picnic blankets on the bank of a lonely river drinking wine, while their children squeal in delight. It's all so encouraging and hugely appreciated.

Thursday's ride was awesome. Looping around the hills and dales of Greyton and Genadendal, it felt like the kind of mountain biking that got me hooked on this sport. – Craig McKune

What a day of riding. Finally a super-fun stage full of single track. Blocked single track but single track nonetheless. I have always had a beef with stage racing when it comes to riding single track and Thursday was no different. If the riders could just practice riding up and down switchbacks, the race would be more fun for all.

On Thursday, we were also cut off by the same team roughly six times. They would race to get in front of us and then pretty much stop on the single tracks. I wish these guys would realise they are not going to win the race and stop taking themselves so seriously. (We ended up beating them anyway. Idiots.)

It is great to be sitting here in the media centre, munching on some yummy food and not feeling like absolute death. Its happy days within the M&G-Crank team camp. We are finally riding about where we should be in the race.

In the past two days, Craig and I have climbed almost 100 places in the general classification – a pity about our disastrous first stage. It shows that our slow and steady approach to riding this Epic seems to work.

This stage took its toll on many of the front teams, including Team Bulls rider Karl Platt, who had to abandon the race due to a sore knee after his crash on Wednesday. This led to the highlight of my day when his partner Urs Huber flew past us at the 50km mark, a frightening display of power and bike handling skills.

Stage five is the toughest stage of this year's epic. We transition from Greyton to Oak Valley in Grabouw, covering 110km and a grueling 2 900m of climbing, Known as this year’s Queen stage, it will be "downhill" from there to Lourensford on Sunday. – Rory van Zyl

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