Saturday, April 29, 2006

Day 6 Greytown to Hermanus (Riviera of the South) 6 hours

116 km 2005 meters

Today was billed as one of the hardest days – partially because a mean and nasty loose gravel single track climb was tucked away at the 110 km mark. Consequently, everyone needed to have something left in the tank to get over this last obstacle.

We moved up a place to 14th in the mixed category, so got to start in the B group again, just behind the leaders. From the get go it was zoom zoom again with a couple of race packs forming to put the hammer down on the 32km of relative flat before the first major climb of the day. Carrie and I both question the wisdom of hopping on the back of one of these freight trains of aggressive riders because it drives my heart rate up to 10 beats over the top end of my target range. That extra effort during the first hour of the day often comes back to haunt some 5-6 hours later.

I also took the chance of wearing less clothes to start so that I could escape any clothing change early on and hand with the pack. The result was that the first 32 km passed in not much more than an hour. We were then “delivered” to the base of the first proper climb of the day further up in the finish order than we’ve achieved on prior days. After getting over the obstacle, both Carrie and I realized that we were a bit “overdone” and took it down a notch or two.

My bike worked fine today so I was able to just ride. Still, my heart rate when I put any special effort in on a climb. Carrie got to ride ahead while I tried to do damage control. We did some good drafting off of one of the other leading couples. The man was a hammer – but not so good at spotting the signs re: which way to go. When he kept almost missing turns, is gal would give him heaps of abuse in German (som things are universal sounding even if you don’t speak the langua I ge.

We ground it out in bright vibrant sunshine and in brilliant scenery – the best so far. Hard to tell just where we were overall, but it felt like the morning’s effort had put us up there. My left calve began to feel strained and I was getting over the limits on heartfate on any of the rolling climbs, so I continued to back-off.

Sure enough – the last climb was a big ugly loose rock and gravel mess. No one was in a mood for it by 110 km, but there was no way out. Carrie zoomed it, and I muddled along. We made up enough time to catch the 3rd place women’s team on the roll down to Hermanus. Fortunately, its very motivating seeing where one is ending up, especially against the beautiful backdrop of the Indian ocean.

In we zoomed to bright sun and a full-on Mediterranean (actually Indian ocean) endpoint.

Dinner tonight with Gordon and Jeffra’s crew. They’ve got one other experienced pair of American masters who are high up in the standings, and then two sad guys from England who crashed into each other 5km into the first day, and knocked each other out (they aren’t talking a lot!).

Tomorrow is the big day of the race: 3000 meters of climbing, lots of technical bits, and a long long stage. Urgh.!


The Official Report

Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic from Greyton to the famous whale watching town of Hermanus saw some of the best single track riding of the race so far. The route led across the historic 1820 Riviersonderend Bridge followed by long scenic fynbos sections with plenty of challenging technical riding. The highlight of the day – spectacular views over Hermanus and the Walker Bay – first demanded for hard work. The Epic riders had to climb one of the toughest ascents in the entire race with gradients of up to 25 degrees at certain points which seemed to go on forever. What made the climb even more difficult was the constantly changing terrain ranging from soft sand to lose gravel rocks. Up on top they enjoyed magnificent views before entering a fast and technical jeep track downhill section where riders hit top speeds up to 80 km/h.

Today’s stage saw once again different faces on the top of the podium. After another powerful attempt, team Stevens Racing with Johannes Sickmueller (GER) and Christian Heule (SUI) and Mixed team adidas/ WE Cycles/ Bianchi with Anke Erlank (RSA) and Fourie Kotze (RSA), finally achieved their goal and won a stage.

Early in the race, Silvio Bundi (SUI) of the leading team Specialized ripped off his derailleur. “In the first downhill a small stick got caught between my spokes of my wheel. Fortunately we were able to fix it, but it cost us about seven minutes. When we got back onto our bikes we knew we would have to ride very hard to close the gap. At the second watering point we had already narrowed the lead by thee minutes and eventually we caught up with the front bunch before we reached the third water point.” The tough final climb was made even more strenuous by the fact that the leading teams started to attack. Today it was team GT Mr. Price with Marc Bassingthwaighte and Arno Viljoen that made the bold first move of trying the break away in the technical climb. Stevens rider Christian Heule responded immediately stepping up the pace to follow them. Johannes was left behind with the rest of the pack. “We were pushed to our limits during that climb”, remembered Silvio. “Christian was very strong in the ascents today. They really deserved to win the stage that’s why we gave way at the finish line. We were also a bit tired from pushing so hard to catch up with them. We only had about 20 minutes to recover and the race was on again.”

“It was really hard today, like almost every stage”, Christian Heule said. “I am very impressed by the amateurs that participate in this race. We are pros; it is our job to ride our bikes. And we have five to six more hours time to regenerate. It is really cruel, by the time we have showered, have had our massage and go to eat some of these guys are still coming in. I admire their dedication and passion.”

Within its short lifetime, The Cape Epic has become a world class race. “It is now tougher and faster compared to the first two years”, commented Mannie Heymans (NAM) of team adidas Raleigh who won the inaugural Cape Epic in 2004 and who placed third today. “When you look at the overall results you can see that the leaders are literally minutes apart after more than 26 hours in the saddle. In previous years the gap was anything ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. You cannot come to The Cape Epic and be ‘unprepared’. If you want to make it onto the podium you have to be at the top of your game.”

This was exactly the case today for South Africa’s Mixed favourites Anke Erlank and Fourie Kotze who outpaced the Mixed leaders by more than six minutes when the crossed the finish line after 4:38:09. But it wasn’t all easy going as Anke crashed an hour into the race when the leading group single filed out on a jeep track and her front wheel overlapped with someone’s back wheel. “It was on a downhill single track. I was going down at about 55 km/h when it happened. Next thing I knew I hit a rock and thought ‘tuck and roll’ as I always preach to amateurs. You must relax when you fall.” Anke grazed her entire right hand side when she hit the ground and damaged her saddle in the process. Fourie, Anna Baylis-(AUS) and Jörg Scheiderbauer (GER) were caught up in the crash and went down as well. “In the collision the tow rope contraption that the Scheiderbauers are using broke”, Anke explained, “so we actually waited for them to fix it. Jörg is a master in improvisation. Then the four of us rode together for about 30 kilometres licking our wounds.” Going at a consistent pace the two Mixed teams got closer and closer to the leading bunch. In a very technical section of the route with demanding up- and downhills through beautiful fields of fynbos Anke and Fourie left the green leader jerseys behind. “I suppose they were tired and Anna was probably hurting. Maybe they had a mechanical problem, but I actually don’t know. We never saw them again”, said Fourie who at 51 years of age is the oldest competitor in the elite group. “I said to Anke we must go now and so we rode hard. We saw a group at the horizon and 15 minutes later we caught them and left them behind. We then caught Geddan and Linus around water point 3 and we stayed together until the last technical climb. At one point we passed Brandon Stewart (RSA) and Shan Wilson (RSA). I could see that Shan was feeling miserable today, he was so pale and sick on his stomach. Later they caught us up and we rode with them until the finish.”

Challenges behind the scenes

Burning up to 5000 calories and more during the strenuous stages, the riders must first of all refuel when they arrive at the finish. Feeding 1500 Epic participants and crew every day is a challenge for those who work behind the scenes. During the race week the riders consume almost 15 000 muffins and pastries, 2100 loafs of bread, 41300 pieces of fresh fruit, 1305 kilos of cereals, 11 000 juice packs and 2800 kilos of pasta, to just list a few. Each day, the dining marquee has to be equipped with 150 tables and 1500 chairs which have to be packed up again after dinner. The Cape Epic’s catering manager Andrew Dietrich of Spier Wine Estate has even created an incentive programme to speed up the process. “We’ve asked the local schools to send us their rugby team to set up the dining marquee and we turned it into a competition. The school with the fastest set-up times wins a trophy, cash and a weekend accommodation at Spier for a raffle. To date Swellendam has been the fastest with 1 hour 33 minutes offloading the truck and 57 minutes to upload.”

Andrew Dietrich faces yet another challenge: whilst in previous years the entire Cape Epic catering was supplied by Spier, this year the towns prepare the food for the riders. “We want the towns to benefit from The Cape Epic, that’s why we decided to hand over the daily catering to the respective stage locations”, he stated. “We are monitoring the food preparation and consult the towns with a team of five catering and banqueting experts as well as a health and safety officer. Day one is always the hardest day of the Epic, because everything is new and you have to find your routine. For us, every day is a ‘day one’ since we are working with a new town each day. But we have done several pre-visits so we knew about the challenges in each town and we have adjusted the menu accordingly. For instance, we discarded BBQs at places where a gravel road was close to the kitchen tent.” Andrew Dietrich’s team is supported by microbiologist Ian Scholtz of SWIFT Micro Laboratories who runs several hygiene audits with food and swaps (towels, gloves etc.) each day. “I work off a full hygiene checklist of four different kitchens”, Ian explained. “One of the most important aspects is temperature control; I check the fridges, the cooking process and the hot holding. If I have a concern, the food has to be dumped as we don’t want to take a safety risk. Imagine over 1000 riders getting a food poisoning. Events of this size should always have a health and hygiene officer. But the reality is that The Cape Epic is the first event that I am aware of to have put this important function in place.”


1. Stevens Racing: Johannes Sickmueller (GER) and Christian Heule (SUI) – 04:16:30
2. Specialized: Christophe Sauser (SUI) and Silvio Bundi (SUI) - 04:03:26
3. adidas Raleigh: Kevin Evans (RSA) and Mannie Heymans (NAM) – 04:17:39


1. adidas-Fiat-Rotwild: Sabine Grona (GER) and Kerstin Brachtendorf (GER) – 05:37:54
2. Mountainbike Revue: Elisabeth Hager (AUT) and Sandra Lettner (AUT) – 05:48:24
3. Go Fast Girls: Barbara Kreisle (USA) and Christina Begy (USA) – 07:43:32


1. Absa Business Banking Services: Linus van Onselen (RSA) and Geddan Ruddock (RSA) – 04:37:04
2. dennis mccann: Ergee du Toit (RSA) and Corrie Muller (RSA) – 04:42:51
3. Marsilio Projects: Tony Conlon (RSA) and Lieb Loots (RSA) – 04:54:15


1. adidas/ W E Cycles / Bianchi : Fourie Kotze (RSA) and Anke Erlank (RSA) – 04:38:09
2. GHOST International: Jorg Scheiderbauer (GER) and Anna Baylis-Scheiderbauer (GER) – 04:44:15
3. Dolores Maechler (SUI) and Severin Rupp (SUI) – 04:47:08


1. Sauser/ Bundi – 26:23:40
2. Sickmueller/ Heule – 26:36:49
3. Platt/ Bresser – 26:39:01


1. Grona/ Brachtendorf – 34:34:44
2. Hager/ Lettner – 35:30:01
3. Kreisle/ Begy – 39:38:26


1. van Onselen/ Ruddock – 29:01:54
2. Du Toit/ Muller – 29:53:44
3. Conlon/ Loots – 30:38:49


1. Baylis-Scheiderbauer/ Scheiderbauer – 29:22:23
2. Erlank/ Kotze – 30:04:37
3. Meachler/ Rupp – 30:17:59


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