Any bike race involves preparation. It’s more than just pinning a number on – especially when you move towards a HCS ranked Stage Race. The ABSA Cape Epic has just started, at Meerendal Wine Estate in the Western Cape Province. The sun is blazing, the helicopters are buzzing, and euro dance beats are pumping out of the Prologue Start chute.
Just about any of the riders taking the start today have had few chances for a sleep in for the past few months. You can’t ride the ABSA Cape Epic off the couch. Preparation takes a lot of dedication. Countless hours of training combine with a lot of logistical planning for any team to attend, be they South African locals or an International team. Your bike needs to be prepared for the rigours of the race, as does your digestive system. Planning your nutrition is essential. Above all, you need to be racing with someone you know very well. Know each others’ strengths, weaknesses, motivators and stressors.
Plan as you can, but sometimes it is the last few details that can almost get you unstuck.
Racing with my UK Team mate Will Hayter, who is guest starring as a Subaru-MarathonMTB.com racer from the MarathonMTB.com-Repack Team, we had a super early breakfast and then a shuttle from Cape Town to Meerendal Wine Estate. or so we thought. The ABSA Cape Epic is the epitome of seamless race logistics, but it came close to being unstuck today, thanks to the hired help – the company in charge of taking our bikes (amongst 14 others) from the hotel to the race start. Arriving with five minutes to load sixteen bikes on a trailer designed to fit 26″ wheeled hard tails (and they better not use a Lefty!) had the owner of said trailer and shuttle service scratching his head.
Gratefully, we all received our bikes on time, and had 6 minutes to do a fairly haphazard warm up before slotting into the start chute.
On the ramp, you can’t help but be overcome by pure enthusiasm. Tunes are pumping, the UCI and SA commissaires are counting you down – and then you go. Will and I had agreed that I could lead. With carrots in front at 25 second intervals you don’t lack for motivation. Paired racing requires a different tact. You must know where your partner is, and you must be prepared to back off on descents or climbs if only one of you has the chance to pass.
Within a minute of starting, the stress from the morning had dissipated. Once you’re racing, all the preparation needs to have been completed. If your bike isn’t ready, or your legs, team morale, or nutrition planning… it’s too late. Last minute stress with bike shuttling was frustrating, but didn’t take the shine off our team dynamic. We knew to look after one another and look out for each other – while wringing out what we could. There was plenty of traffic on course, and the singletrack didn’t allow for passing. Patience is a virtue, and a minute or two lost at this time of the week won’t be terrible. The endorphins of racing oozed over the brain like a big squeezy pack punched through your skull.
Our time was reasonable enough in just under an hour and a half. There are hundreds more teams to go, most notably, those racing for the UCI classification. Check out the updated results on The ABSA Cape Epic site – this will provide live updates all week.