A Day to Forget, Another to Remember
[Jeremiah Bishop checks in following Stages 2 and 3 of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic 8-day mountain bike stage race across South Africa, where he and Robert Mennen (Topeak-Ergon Team 2) are racing in support of their fellow Topeak-Ergon teammates Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon Team 1). Bishop previously wrote “Prepping for the Cape Epic” and “Opening Days of the Epic.“]
For Stage 2, an other-worldly landscape was the backdrop for some serious suffering on my part. Early in the stage, a piece of netting became caught in my cassette. I was sidelined while I worked to get it free. Then I tried to chase back to my teammate Robert and the rest of the leaders. As I rode on, I had stomach trouble. My legs followed and became powerless. Things settled down by the time I passed the second feed zone. Unfortunately, while I was struggling, Robert rode ahead to carry on his support role for Alban and Kristian in case either of them flatted or needed assistance. At the checkpoints, the time separation between Robert and me was greater than the allowed two minutes, we were penalized an hour in the GC.
While I was riding alone, the route entered a burn area. It was surreal. My bonked state enhanced the strangeness of weaving through pillars of white rocks on a white line of single track. The maroon pine needles, and black trees rising up from grey ground made me imagine it is what a forest on Mars might look like.
Eventually, Robert and I reconnected. I rode with him pacing me, as we crossed to the vineyard side of the mountains. I felt like a dog being dragged on a leash with a sharp collar.
Then I started to feel better and actually enjoyed some of the North Shore-style features made in part with used wine barrels cupped together like a bobsled track. Sweet!
Stage 3 was much better; my legs were back!
Over the tough first climb, Robert and I made the selection of the elite group. Our team worked the front and kept steady pressure on Songo-Specialized. In tow were Multivan-Merida, Scott, Centurion Vaude and the Bulls. I was wondering if I could keep doing every climb at 370-400 watts for a 5-hour stage?
As we approached Aid Station 2, Specialized flatted. Alban decided not to attack but ride tempo. Specialized had a fast wheel change, got back in the group and went hard on the hot, rock-strewn climb! My face was red with the baking heat under the Karoo sun. Robert and I got gaped, but caught back after that climb.
The Bulls flatted and the pace ramped up. It got nasty as we pace-lined down the road. Then we faced three kilometers of beach-like sand. After a mistake in a deep sand trap, Alban was gapped and Kulhavey sensed it.
The pace was fierce. We raced across a 500-meter long damn; I paced Alban halfway across, helping him and Kristian move into second place for the stage and moving them into second in the GC.
Robert and I crossed the line in third place and were quickly swept up in the podium reception.
It was an awesome feeling, indeed, after a hard 85-mile stage of the Cape Epic!