Jun 14, 2009


We might not have won the main event but we most definitely won our race (as did every other finisher) and so just like the Oscars winners I've prepared a little 'thank you' speech...

Firstly thanks must go to the folk who organise the amazing event that is the Cape Epic and sort out a huge amount of stuff. The Epic truly is a world class event! Thanks too to the other riders who help to make this whole experience a lot of fun.

Petie, Jacques, Enoch and the crew at Helderberg Cycle World were great. Not just in fulfilling the service contract during the race but in going the extra mile so many times prior to the event. More than once they sorted my bike out at the drop of a hat, much to my relief. Petie is a star in putting together regular rides which helped to form the basis of my training plan.

Thanks too to all the great guys I've had the privilege of riding with here in Somerset West, Stellenbosch & Grabouw. You're a great crowd.

Thanks to Barbara my pilates instructor. Had I not known how to 'tilt my sit-bone' I would have been in a lot more pain than I was.

Special thanks go to Paul's mum for the copious quantities of fruit cake. My boys now refuse to eat Woolworths fruit cake as Paul's mum's cake is SO good!

Massive thanks go to Paul for riding with me. The benefit of your years of racing really paid off and you were such a good guy to ride with as well as being one of the most chilled guys I have ever known. It was a real privilege and total pleasure to ride with you!

Penultimate thanks go to Juliette, Paul's long suffering wife and Lara & Amy who let their dad spend so much time out and about training and then riding the race. Juliette was often at the finish line with other members of Paul's family and they were all very supportive.

There is no way I could not say a truly special THANKYOU! to my gorgeous wife Paula and amazing sons Joel & Eli (as seen above). I can't ever recall you grumbling about the amount of time this whole adventure took me away from you or saying 'no' to spending ridiculous amounts of money on it all. I couldn't have done this without you and seeing you at the finish line in Greyton with the boys was very very special! You were incredibly long suffering through the whole journey and I stand in awe of you! Man I love my wife!!

Well, this is the end of the blog (for now). I started it with a specific purpose in mind and having crossed the finish line of the Cape Epic I've achieved what I set out to. Should I undertake the Epic again or participate in some other event worthy of blogging about I'll revisit this blog. Until then, adios amigos!

May 9, 2009

Spinning Again

After what seems like a long period of inactivity and demotivation (I think it's called 'post Epic blues') I'm back on the bike and managing a couple of decent rides each week totaling about 7½ hours. I'm still struggling with the motivation side of things but I am really enjoying the riding once the legs are warmed up.

I'm planning to ride the AMA Rider 100Miler with a friend next Saturday which is a mountain bike ride from Durbanville to Paarl via Malmesbury. The route is non-technical on rolling district (dirt) roads and farm tracks so it shouldn't be too hard other than the sheer amount of time in the saddle. It should be a good test of my post Epic fitness levels.

In other news... I won a short cycle race organised by my boys school in aid of Miles For Smiles. The prize was a weekend away in a luxury tented camp which we're looking forward to. Read more on my other blog.

Apr 28, 2009

Stage 7 Photos

This is one of my favourite photos and it was taken by my mountain bike buddy Greg English on the finish line in Lourensford. I bunny-hopped the timing mats on every finish line and was delighted when Greg told me he'd captured this.

After the fun of Stages 5 & 6 and having sorted my nutrition etc I was really looking forward to more of the same for this stage. Sadly the day was pretty grim and not particularly enjoyable. I felt that I had little in the tank and after the climb up Nuweberg I felt completely done-in. Thankfully Gerrard met us at the top with an ice cold beer which did help. Once again Paul was on hand to push me up the final hill on the Wedderwill estate after which it was downhill and flat all the way into Lourensford. Crossing the finish line was a really sweet moment!

We came across this large puddle with everyone queueing on one side to walk around it. I decided to ride it (one of the few that did) and was rewarded by passing a lot of other riders. Paul reckoned it was bad manners to queue jump but it was race day and those who chose to walk could easily have ridden. They probably didn't want to get their feet wet.

I love the fact that the photographer appreciated my effort to ride through the puddle. The strange face is due to the fact I was chowing an energy bar part of which was still in my hand

Almost home. This was a compulsory portage section over the Gamtoe Pass, a national heritage site.

Apr 27, 2009

Stage 6 Photos

Stage 6 was another fantastic day. Like Stage 5 it played to our strengths and we had a blast. The highlight was the technical descent of Wolfkloof in the Kogelberg as this is completely forbidden territory.

The singletrack was great and our local knowledge was starting to pay dividends. Paul slipped into full race mode and at one point we managed to work our way through about 20 riders to get onto a stretch of singletrack ahead of them, after which we dropped them bigtime, all thanks to Paul's technique.

The singletrack through the forest between Thandi and Oak Valley was fast and flowing and a real blast

The silly grins say it all

We really enjoyed this stage and were well set for a great ride on stage 7

Apr 26, 2009

Stage 5 Photos

Having spent the night gorging myself on all the right food stuffs and continually snacking on nuts & dried fruit as well as drinking more recovery and electrolyte rich drinks than I care to remember (I never seemed to stop weeing) we were set for a great day. Stage 4 was billed as the 'easy day' but in truth it just favoured the roadies and sprinters. We held our own but it didn't play to any of our strengths. Stage 5 on the other hand was our best day by far! We loved every minute of it and eventually crossed the finish line with huge grins on our faces. We'd worked out a good nutrition plan for me and we were religious im ensuring we had drained our water bottles by each water point. On top of that we were uber religious about eating on the hour every hour and it really paid off! Stage 5 felt like we'd finally started mountain biking properly and we were loving it.

The highlight of the Stage (for me) was seeing Hansekop in the distance as we climed out of Botrivier. As soon as we saw our old friend (I've ridden to the top of Hansekop twice) we knew we were 'home' and the rest of the Epic was to be ridden in our own back yard.

The single track coming into Oak Valley was brilliant.

Look at the slack on the chain!

We both had a huge amount of fun on this Stage but the singletrack was the icing on a very sweet cake!

Having a blast!

Paul's family were out in force at Oak Valley and it was great to see them, especially as ey had brought burgers and beer. This was also the end of our time in the tented village as the next two nights were spent at home in our own beds. Blessed relief especially as it poured one night.

Apr 25, 2009

Stage 4 Photos

This one sums up the very nature of the Epic to me. It's about team work, looking out for your partner and making sure you cross the finish line together. For the majority of Epic finishers, your finishing position is far less important than actually finishing. Of all the riders I've met who have completed the Epic I've never known anyone to ask where they finished or in what time. Quite simply finishing the Epic is far more important and that's why I like this photo so much. This sums up team, looking out for one another and being determined to finish together come what may! Just for the record I did tell Paul to take his hand off me once I'd seen the camera.

Stage 4 was billed as "The easiest day except for stage 7" but I was not experiencing that. In fact by now I was really struggling as I was desperately failing to replace the calories I was burning. The wheels were on the verge of coming off and by the time we crossed the finish line in Greyton I knew that I had to get myself sorted out. I spent some time with the guys at Polar who were fantastic and as a result of their advice(they downloaded the stats from my heart monitor and analysed it properly) I was able to save my Epic and turn things around.

Apr 23, 2009

Stage 2 & 3 Photos

Crossing the finish line in Villiersdorp at the end of Stage 2. I was exhausted by now as I was not consuming anywhere near enough calories. I hadn't recovered from my 8000Kcal expenditure the day before and was struggling to eat without wanting to throw-up. somehow I made it through the day, having wondered how on earth I was going to get back on the bike in the morning.

Despite getting my nutrition horribly wrong I still enjoyed the day and Paul and I got on really well. Paul was immensely patient and at times a real physical help as he pushed me up a few hills.

Nearly at the top of the 'hike a bike' section on Stage 3. This was a tough 40 minute, 3km climb with bike up a very steep and rocky hill. I was knackered at the top

Finally back on the bike again. At the top it was very quiet as no-one was talking or joking around. I guess we were all too shocked by the experience and very tired

Later that day things improved although my nutrition was now seriously compromised.

Apr 21, 2009

Stage 1 Photos

Here we are on Stage 1 of the Epic. This was a monster of a day and at dinner in the evening Christoph Sauser was quoted as saying that this particular Stage 1 was: 'the toughest ever'.

Here's a bit more of what he had to say about the day:
"I felt super up Groenlandberg, this is almost a hour climb, but the descent was so rocky and for ever. Everything went numb!
On my stage profile the last 35km look easy and fast, but it took for ever and my energy went low."*
Whilst I'm nowhere near Sauser's level we were at least on the same page on the day.

I'm guessing this is somewhere near the top of Groenlandberg, maybe even on the Villiersdorp side of it. Either way, I was stuffed and still had quite a long way to go!

Finally we rolled into Villiersdorp for a hard earnt rest. Paul had clocked his family at the finishline and it was great to see them, especially as they had muffins and cold beer

This picture seems a bit repetitive but I've included it as our mates Dan & Anka are right behind us (Dan's in green to the left). Dan struggled big time on this stage with cramping. Eventually they went on to beat us by almost 6½minutes finishing 277th one place ahead of us

This was a really tough day! To understand how tough you had to be there. The temperature was up to 46°C at times and the climbs were long and tough but also quite technical, particularly Groenlandberg. The attrition rate on this Stage was minimised by the fact that the cutoff was extended by about 90 minutes. Many of the riders who had done previous Epics were saying this was VERY VERY tough. Personally this is the biggest day I've ever had on a bike and I came close to blowing it.

* Taken from Sauser's blog

Apr 18, 2009

Photos - At Last!

Over the next few days I'll be posting a series of photos of myself during the Cape Epic taken by Sportograf.de and where possible, if I can recollect the moment through the sweat & tears, I'll add a few notes on each one.

I've also added a complete slideshow on the right of the photos I'll be posting here so you can have a sneak peek. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

This one is of the Bizweni Bundu Bashers aka Dean & Paul on the Friday at registration (Table Mountain makes for a stunning backdrop) looking very calm and clean! We had planned to test ride the Prologue route but only got about 1km into it when we had to bail as my rear cassette was stuffed. Thankfully a quick trip to the bike shop remedied the problem and all went well the next day on the Prologue itself. At this point I had absolutely no idea what i was about to undertake and experience. What a mug!

In no particular order during the Prologue:

This is a great picture with Lion's Head in the background. The bike and my kit look so clean here, but that soon changed!

The riding was a lot of fun

I've developed a bad habit of sticking my tongue out for the camera

The scenery on Table Mountain was stunning but it was tragic to see the devastation caused by the recent fires

Being pursued

Apr 13, 2009

UCI MTB World Cup

Round 1 of the UCI MTB World Cup has been held in Pietermaritzburg here in South Africa over the Easter weekend with some surprising results in the cross country category. Julien Absalon was beaten into second place by the Spaniard Jose Hermida riding for Merida Multivan.

Burry Stander managed a credible third place but I was disappointed by Christoph Sauser's 4th place finish. I'm quite a fan of these two (not just because of their Epic performance) and would have liked to see them both do better. Still, at least the frenchman was beaten.

Full story and results can be seen at the World Cup SA webpage.

Polish Cycling Holiday

Thinking of a cycling holiday around Poland?

Probably not a good idea in light of this: Poland 'can jail drunk cyclists' from the BBC.

Apr 2, 2009

Learning To Ride A Bike

The title pretty much sums up my Cape Epic. I feel that for the first time in my life I actually learnt to ride a bike properly and it felt great!

I've already said it a lot but will keep on telling anyone who will listen that riding with Paul was a real privilege particularly as he has a very natural racing mentality. Paul could strategise and see opportunities to pass teams and drop other riders whilst I was happy to sit back, relax and get my heart rate back to normal. Riding with someone like Paul is a real education as suddenly you realise there's a whole lot more going on than merely pedaling your bike.

My lowest point was on Sunday evening after Stage 1. I blew my ride by spending over 4 hours in the orange zone and burnt almost 8000Kcal's, most of which I failed to replace. I was left wondering how on earth I was going to get back onto my bike in the morning and was convinced it was physically impossible! Somehow my mind overruled my body and I did indeed ride again on Monday in Stage 2. I really didn't enjoy it much and after burning almost 5000Kcal's was getting myself into a real mess. I knew I had to eat but each small mouthful I took caused me to gag. I really wanted to puke big time but somehow managed not to. Not sure how but I held on. Stupidly Stage 3 was pretty much a repeat with a ridiculous number of Kcal's being burnt and nowhere near enough being consumed. I really was hitting some very low points and simply not helping myself. My only other really tough day was Stage 7 when I felt like I simply had nothing left to give. Somehow I had to dig very very deep and with a bit of help from Paul (pushing me uphill again) I managed to get myself up to the top of Wedderwill which was the very last hill. Hooray!

After getting my nutrition sorted with help from Polar we began to race properly and Stages 5 & 6 were far and away the best days. The riding was proper mountain biking with plenty of technical stuff and great singletrack. I really enjoyed these two days, particularly the singletrack leading into Oak Valley and the stuff in Lebanon both of which are local rides for us.

The 'Bum Tent' run by the Medi-Clinic was an interesting experience. By the end of Stage 2 I really needed some help as my saddle was set incorrectly and my bum was getting very sore! The initial visit to the bum tent was a bit odd but very quickly you lose any inhibitions and really don't care who's got their hand up there. I got to know the Dr's quite well and Sharon was an angel. Initially they gave me nappy cream then I moved onto an anti-septic cream but by Stage 6 my bum was screaming with pain. So on seeing the Medi-Clinic 4X4 at a waterpoint I jokingly asked for the 'under the counter stuff' to which the medic said "OK" and pulled out a small tube of cream. Within 2 minutes of applying it my bum was numb. Blessed relief! I forgot to ask what it was but that night (I was staying at home) I saw my GP and she gave me a prescription for what she thought the cream was. Sadly she was wrong, so the next morning at the first water point I grabbed the medics and made them give me a LOT of the cream. It turns out it was a purely anaesthetic cream but it was glorious and I managed to continue riding pain free.

Besides crossing the finish line in Lourensford, one of my key highlights was being told by Paul that he was 'happy to follow me downhill as I was picking some sweet lines'. Now I'm not normally noted for my downhilling but for some reason it all came together on the Epic and I was really happy to throw myself (plus bike) down the rocky loose hills with almost complete abandonment. Wolfkloof in the Kogelberg on Stage 6 was exceptionally good fun. Part of it was born out of the confidence I have in my bike, the BMC Fourstroke 02 is a very sweet machine!! But I think mainly it came from the many hours I spent in Jonkers and Eden practising my technical skills on singletrack and rocky downhills. The Rock-garden that links Eden and Coetzenberg was great practice as nowhere on the epic was worse than that.

Having said all of that, the best thing by far was crossing the finish line in Greyton on Stage 3 being cheered on by Paula and my boys! I knew Paula would be there but I hadn't expected her to take the boys out of school for the day. I was so emotional on seeing them and they really lifted my spirits. Later as they drove off home I realised just how tight we are as a family and how much I really adore them!