Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big MTB Stage Race - Cherry Popped

Thanks to everyone who followed along with my Cape Epic campaign. Don't worry, I'm not going to give a detailed account of every aspect of every stage, but thought some anecdotes and some general impressions would be at least somewhat interesting.

Quick Stats:

Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Distance: 707km
Days: 8
Total Climbing: 15,000m (equivalent to twice up Mt. Everest)
We Completed In: ~36 hours
Total Cost: A lot
Ottawa to Cape Town travel time: 65 hour return trip
Overall Place: 87th out of 600
Masters Place: 16th out of 199
Canadian Place: 1st out of 10

General Impressions:

As the days went by, I couldn't help but have the feeling of a "bicycle fantasy camp". With so many top pros, the helicopters, the spectators, riders from around the world, and the pampering we received from our host and masseuse, the grim reality of daily life melts away. I believe that this is the appeal of these events, although; perhaps not consciously for some.

WARNING: This feeling is highly addictive and the "come down" not so great.

Cape Epic is a world class event. I've done one of those long triathlons marketed as "Ironman", and it's on par with that; however, the lineups for food and bathrooms were too long, the "DJ" played the same crappy twelve songs over and over again, and there were no hot podium girls. Other than that ....awesome.

Don't be fooled by Cape Epic's marketing material. I was given the impression that we'd be riding through a wild life wonderland, but all I ended up seeing was an ostrich, and many domestic cows and chickens. With wonder in my voice I would point to cows and say, "LOOK! ...a wild African cow!" partner didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.

The Route:

Holy climbing! We sure do miss out in Ottawa not having mountains nearby.

Most of the route was on double track, dirt roads, and lots of slow grinds up some seriously big hills (a.k.a. "mountains"). Occasionally, they'd throw some single track at us. I know it sounds biased, but if you're used to riding Fortune, or Kanata Lakes you'd be amused at what they call "technical" sections. Unfortunately, there were some seriously long bits of hike-a-bike. Not because they were too technical, but because they were simply not rideable (too sandy, too loose, too steep, or too many riders sharing not enough trail).

Non Sequiturs:

On one particular climb in which a huge group of us were slogging our way up single file in granny gear, I dropped a bottle which caused a domino effect of toppling over about 20 riders behind me. It was funny to hear swearing in so many languages and accents at once.

Current world champion Jose Hermida had a mechanical failure early on during Stage 5 and worked his way up through the field. We rode together for a good 2 minutes! (out of a nearly seven hour day). It topped that time at an OBC cross race where I had to leave early so I went to the front and was briefly ahead of "to be national road champion" Aaron Fillion.

I met a fellow who had done Crank the Shield (CTS) back in September. It was very cool to hear about how well he thought CTS was run. Chico Racing has some international cred it would seem.

Some European dude at supper grabbed salad with his hands at the buffet. WTF?!

By Stage 3, a Pavlovian dog response had set in at the sound of the helicopter's engine starting 5 minutes before the start. (no drool, but stomach butterflies)

At the medical tent, there was a special area called the "Bum Tent". My partner Brett was anointed after Day 3 as having the most badly damaged butt! (fortunately for me, I had absolutely no problems in that regard).

Going against my primal instincts, I left my Tall Tree jersey at home and rode for Brett's shop in Cape Town called "Olympic Cycles". I was pretty stoked that they'd be there to support us and take care of our bikes at the end of each day. I was less stoked when they handed me quite a substantial bill at the end when all they had to do was apply oil to my chain and check my tire pressure. Out of principle Brett resigned the next day. What a wing man!

Final Thoughts:

A truly amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone. I'm not sure I'd do it again while living it Ottawa. The training was just brutal in our climate (although, with a snow-bike, that might change). I'm thinking La Ruta 2012 next (but don't tell my wife) ....anyone?

Some pictures.

Next up, Almonte ...and the smack down on our arch rivals from the Kunstadt squad. You know who you are.


Disco Stu said...

Nice result, Dave! On top of that, good job condensing 8 days of racing into 8 paragraphs (or so).

I'm sure you're in killer shape now, too.

Madmountainmike said...

Awesome Dave - you will be a kick ass biking rock star at Almonte...see you there !

La about BCBR??

Andy said...

You're the effin' MAN, Dave! What an amazing experience... and performance to boot!

Anonymous said...

nice report...
La Ruta, did it 3 times. Three times is enough for me...
Bring new bike if you go. La Ruta eats bikes. Be prepared to replace every bearing afterwards. The mud is thick and it gets in every orphis.
Its a neat race though with 9 micro climates and decents (fast fast fast) down a volcano with some of the fastest racers going.

have to do La Ruta at least once.

Do BC bike race. Its a blast!

Do 100 milers in the US, they bring gas.