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Mountain Biking in South Africa

Race Reports

Absa Cape Epic Stages 1-4
Absa Cape Epic Stages 5-8
Raleigh Bikes
Nutrition and Recovery

Training & preparation

We are using 2 polar heart rate training programs leading up to the 2007 Epic. Follow our training diary to see how we are doing. 

Bikes & Equipment

Both of us will be riding Raleigh bikes. Its hardtail vs full suspension Raleigh RM Team Carbon vs Raleigh Marathon Team.  

Video and photos

Epic Race photos & video

Cape Epic Pages

Check out links to our previous Cape Epic Pages for 2005 and 2006. 

ABSA Cape Epic 2007 Race Report Stages 1-4

 
Accumulated Stage Results for Team Subaru
Alan Cotton and Albert Retief
STAGE DATE STAGE POSITION STAGE TIME RACE POSITION
Mens Overall Mens Overall
1 24-Mar-07 63 102 5:40 63 102
2 25-Mar-07 61 90 6:53 62 96
3 26-Mar-07 58 94 6:59 59 94
4 27-Mar-07 65 103 5:29 56 91
5 28-Mar-07 49 75 4:56 55 89
6 29-Mar-07 53 84 4:54 55 87
7 30-Mar-07 45 66 5:24 51 78
8 31-Mar-07 57 77 4:31 52 78
Overall 44:48 52 78

Day 1: Knysna to Uniondale 101km 2695m ascent

The start today in Knysna was perfect with great weather that continued the whole day. It was a great days riding. Most of the route was climbing but there was great variation and awesome views. The first 40km to water point 1 was on forestry roads firstly through the Knysna forest and then some of the commercial forest.

We followed some awesome contour paths rolling through the forests with twists and turns. With a bit of momentum it was good going. There were really 3 big climbs that we tackled today, the first just outside Knysna up Simola and into the forest, then the Prince Albert pass, and then lastly the Ou wapad into Uniondale.

It is amazing how many faces are recognisable from previous epics, most of them looking leaner and meaner than before. We decided to start faster than any of our previous epics to try and get some time in the bank and get a good start position. We rode at just under 80% of max heart rate, previously we had stayed under 70%. We found the pace comfortable and were happy with our ride, although the climbing was hard on the legs. The last section on die Ou wapad was a highlight with some nice technical riding and a speedy technical decent. The decent unfortunately claimed one of our tyres as I punctuted at the bottom with a sidewall cut just 2km before the finish. A quick repair with a tyre plug and a new tube had us on our way again. We finished to a festive atmosphere at the school grounds in Uniondale with a 5:34 ride for the day.

Our support crew (the loving wives Candice and Belinda) had found a nice shady spot on the grass behind the chillout zone. We spent the afternoon cleaning and checking our bikes, eating and just resting in the shade. We both felt good and looked forward to our massage as both of us had rather sore legs and we wondered how we would feel in the morning. Checking the results that evening we were very happy to find ourselves in the B seeded group, much better than we had expected. The challenge would be to stay there and slowly improve our overall time.

Day 2: Uniondale to Oudtshoorn 136 km 2300m ascent

It was the first of many chilly starts, but with the prospect of a hot Karoo day ahead we just grinned and bared it. The fast start out of Uniondale on the tar and the rest of the first 35 km wizzed buy. Humming tyres on the tar and huge dust clouds on the dirt roads brought home the epic experience as we settled in for a hard days riding ahead. We turned into Kamanassie and started a brutal ascent with some steep sections that had to be walked, all leading to the “stairway to heaven” an unrideable loose rocky section that had to be walked up with your nose scraping the ground. The descent was hectic and just barely rideable with a lot of concentration, so there was no time for resting there. My Raleigh RDS 9 with the rear shock unlocked loved this section while the hardtails were seen picking lines and dodging ruts, the full sussers just motored down. This 30km section took us 3 hours and left us very drained for the last 50km back. It turned into a long drag especially for me, and we were both completely exhausted when we arrived in Oudtshoorn. The finish was awesome again and we spent the afternoon under the shade next to the finish line. Many teams dropped out missing the 10hr cut off time that was strictly enforced this year. This was one tough epic day. Turns out we had a good day in comparison to others so we were still in it although we were starting to wonder how we were going to keep it up for another 6 days. For the first time both of us started feeling slightly nauseas and lacked appetite, but we ate anyway knowing that we had to. The massages saved us again and by the morning our legs were feeling ok.

Day 3: Oudtshoorn to Ladysmith 128km 2400m ascent

Dust, dust and more dust. Once again our eyes were burning from all the dust picked up by the big bunches, bloodshot eyes would be all over the camp later in the day. I felt flat in the beginning as we rode through a windy rocky jeep track in a nature reserve, I just couldn’t get going, but Al was going strong. We passed Tom Ritchey a couple of times as he and his Rwandan protégé battled with punctures on the harsh African rock and bush tracks.

By the first water point I was feeling a bit better and as we left we got to the first climb, Fiellie’s Folly, that required some walking due to the excessive gradient. We managed to ride most of it as others walked, the power strokes on the steep gradient took their toll and our legs burned. There was a jeep track decent followed by a bit of gravel road to recover before the next climb. It was the second climb of the day up the Calitzdorp crusher that was the real killer, wether you walked or climbed you would have struggled. Again we rode most of it to avoid the walking, but paid the price later. The last nasty surprise for us was the 3rd big climb of the day up Huis Rivier pass on 8km of tar, and it was the nail in the coffin. It was hot and draining, we suffered and got passed by many teams. Then there was still 35 odd kilometers to the finish on undulating roads with an upward gradient that never seemed to end. Eventually we rode into Ladysmith completely drained. This was one of the toughest climbing days and toughest epic days yet and after the previous 2 days it was definitely the hardest start to the epic yet. After almost 7hrs on the bike we struggled to recover and battled to eat and drink our recovery food as we suffered with lack of appetite and nausea.

We visited the Polar guys that afternoon to download our HR data and had a good chat to Peter Figg from Polar. Despite feeling so tired and exhausted we were well on track with our top 100 overall and top 50 mens goal. Our HR graphs were the proof that we had been riding within our limits as we tried to stay under 80% of max HR, we were achieving this despite having just completed 3 of the toughest climbing days in the epic ever. It meant that we had managed to limit the damage and make it through these tough days without over doing it. It was amazing to see what the small 10% increase in effort from 70 to 80% of max heart rate had done to our fatigue levels. But as Peter explained the exponential relation between exertion and fatigue meant that we were feeling the large effects of that small increase in exertion levels.

The Ladysmith location was really in the middle of the Karoo with no grass in site and just barren landscape, we really were in the middle of nowhere. But with some more good massages and some good dinner we started to feel better. Sleep was also improving as we started to get used to the camp vibe. Stories of friends and some pros who had not made the cut off hit home the reality and harshness of this event. We were starting to doubt our ability to maintain a hard pace, but despite feeling so tired we were still well placed and it gave us encouragement.

Day 4: Ladysmith to Barrydale 121km 1355 ascent

Day 4 was billed as a recovery day and an easier day but we know that there are no easy epic days. Once we got going in the morning we soon realized that this was not going to be an easy day. There was half the climbing of the days before but there was twice the sand so the going was stop start. With plenty of jeep track it made for great variation and interesting riding. It was a relatively fast day with a technical finish so we took it easy anticipating the end. We finished strong and relatively early in under 5 hrs. We had a great recovery time under a tree on a grassy field, with our appetite returning we munched on salt and vinegar Pringles to satisfy the growing salt craving. For the first time we started to feel good and got a feel for the final 4 day stretch to the finish. The Barrydale location was very scenic but the camp was a bit disjointed with the showers on the opposite end of the camp.

Race report stages 5-8

   

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