Opening Days of the Epic
The Table Mountain Prologue was a short, intense and exciting opener to the Cape Epic. In this team time trial, Robert and I nabbed ninth place. The exhilaration of racing in the world’s biggest mountain bike race, with a TV helicopter shadowing you along the cliff-side, is indescribable. At the Finish Line, we were interviewed on live TV and then escorted to the “Rider Reception Zone” where we were offered towels and a place to sit; at each chair was a bucket, sponge and mini hose for each rider to clean off with. Lets just say the details are dialed at the Cape Epic. At that point, it became obvious to me this race had doubled in importance, with the richest prize purse in the World since my last time competing at the Cape Epic in 2008. Now there are more pro teams here; and the big teams all have back up teams, like mine, that will sacrifice a wheel or help pace the leaders back to the front group in the event of drama. Notably, there is some great single track on the course versus the point-to-point gravel roads of days gone by.
[The following day,] Stage 1 was going great, despite the hectic start with a giant dust ball from the peloton as we rode into the rising sun. It was an amazing sight, but terrifying because you can’t see a hole or rock on the jeep trail until your get up from your crash! As we climbed into the clouds, Robert and I made the leaders group – that’s no small task, against a field of Olympic gold medalists, national champions and world champions.
Then we descended a steep treeless jeep trail that I could only describe as obliterated with broken building blocks strewn on top of sand. Riders were flying down it at breakneck speed and with the dust cloud in our tearing foggy eyes it was impossible to avoid every rock. Robert and I both flatted at the same time. We patiently fixed our flats, but mine went down again ten minutes later so I plugged it with my samurai handle bar end tire plug.
We got a wheel at the feed zone and chased back up to Centurion Vaude’s Jochen Kass and Keismier, and along the way we rode with Bart Brenjins a bit, so that was novel.
But once we got clear of the group of eight, I sensed a soft rear tire. ‘Again?? You’ve got to be kidding,’ I thought. We carried a Topeak pump with us, so we fixed it without incident. This time we got back on and decided it was best to just ride steady, since we lost a lot of time and our job for the remained of the stages will surely involve supporting our main team of Alban and Kristen. They rode well today, and with one flat just after our first, they managed 4th in GC.
The race has just begun, but now I remember just how hard the Cape Epic is!
– Jeremiah Bishop
[Jeremiah’s next update will follow Stages 2 & 3. Follow this link to view comprehensive coverage of Team Topeak-Ergon.]