Prepping for the Cape Epic
[Jeremiah Bishop checks in as he and his Topeak-Ergon team prepare to embark upon the challenge of the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic: the 8-day mountain bike stage race across South Africa. These accounts will be featured with additional photos on DirtRagMag.com]
We are staying at a little gem of a place called the Ride Inn. We booked accommodations with kitchens, but the inn’s café is amazing; it has red bush tea, solid espresso and to-die-for baked goods.
Here at Topeak-Ergon Cape Epic headquarters, our pre-race preparations are coming along great, but the week started with a scare. A wildfire just hit the nearby mountain and many of the bike trails in the area. Our team almost had to evacuate yesterday.
On the drive in from the airport, I saw a line of fire on the mountain that looked like a giant “M” creeping across hillside. ‘Whoa! That’s is big!’ I’d heard there was a wildfire burning nearby, but I’d thought it was like a couple acres not a couple of thousand! Due to the smoke and ash carpeting the ground, I could tell it was close. I opted to stay down the hill at the accommodations that the team booked when David and Sally Bingham decide sleeping within sight of the fire-line was not safe.
Luckily, the fire is now under control thanks to the fire fighting helicopter pilots and ground crews that have been working for days.
Now, the mood is relaxing here at the Ride Inn. Once the ashes and burned areas are cleared, I’ll have to come back for the 3-hours plus of smooth fast singletrack. The dramatic backdrops of steep rocky mountains and promises of pay-to-play berms through dry brush and pine groves are tempting when rest is the goal. We did get out on a short ride at a nearby vineyard trail network of flowing hillside trails that weave through eucalyptus and vine stock. It made me think I need something like this in Virginia!
The scene here is part service course and part lounge as the riders do some light training. The mechanics Peter and Giovanni have been tuning the bikes and back-up bikes as well as the crucial six service boxes that riders can access during the stage race. During the race, no outside assistance is allowed; too many support vehicles on private property would be a problem. In fact, STRAVA downloading during the race is prohibited! Each of our service boxes has enough parts to build a frame into a full bike. There are even six seat post/saddle sets with each rider’s ride height marked on them. It’s a pretty pro operation, as you’d imagine.
David and team manager Dirk have sorted out the RV’s. All three of them are primed, stocked and our team chef shows up tomorrow night. This is definitely not your normal race; this is the CAPE EPIC! Defending the title is the team’s goal, so it’s a big effort.
At the pre-event press conference all the heavy hitters sized each other up and made nervous jokes in front of the TV cameras. Will Kulhavey and Sauser bring the heat for Sauser’s last Cape Epic? The Bulls have two teams including 4-time Cape Epic winner and multi-time stage winner Karl Platt of Germany, and they are hungry for a win. Of course the Centurion Vaude team is very strong. Will Rudi van Houts and Jose Antonio Hermeda of the Multi Van Merida team go for GC or stick to their XC roots and just pick stages?
For now we rest prepare and hold the excitement for the Table Mountain Prologue. Anything can happen, so it’s best to be calm and ready when the gun goes off!
I’ll check in again after Stage 2.