I’m back, and I’m tired..a little sore but very happy. I couldn’t have had a better time and all things considered I am over the moon with my results. Andrew and I were well matched, and could keep up the pace almost every day. We had our share of bad luck, but that’s the Epic, nobody gets out unscathed.
Thank you to everyone who made each day possible, for the sponsorship, support, and good luck wishes. The good luck charms worked most days!! It’s been a rollercoaster month for me and my bike but very rewarding.
We placed 39th Overall, and 33rd in the Open Men’s Category
Ahead of us were 24 professional teams and 5 international teams
We were 28th and 29th South Africans overall
As an all African team (2 x SA riders) we were 12th overall.
I think we’ve done ourselves proud.
Below is a race report: (…and lower down a bike report for those interested)
Day 1. Fast start as everyone is fresh. Got into around 30th hen snapped my quick link in my chain, had to go fetch it out of the sand and rethread it. Lost a few mins and the bunch too. Chased for over an hour to get back to our position. Paid for that dearly with cramps for 50km. Finished top 50 so was OK.
Day 2. Fast and dusty start, were well placed then hit some good luck before all the singletrack, 15 teams took a wrong turn and put us 23rd or so we killed the singletrack up and down and managed to hold on to 29th. The final 10km of sandy vineyards felt like 50km.
Day 3. Good start again, and were feeling good again, were in the 20-30 group and going strong, got over the climbs in touch and then Andrew cut a sidewall, we couldn’t see the cut and bombed it, flat in 15 secs. So had to put in the tube. Chase again. Made up some spots then I cut a sidewall on a rock 2 km after WP 2. Tube goes in and holds for 20km then bursts. Pumped it to see if the slime would hold. Nope. Ran 1 km downhill over rocks to the WP3. Tube goes in, then Andrew gets carried away with the mini pump and breaks the valve. I snapped the pump and valve off to get another tube in. Use the mechanics floor pump and off we go. Lost big time here 25 mins for the day.
Day 4. Aimed to make up some places, and got into a good bunch, we’re going strong and the fast flat start suited me. Back in the 20-30 train here and climbing strong. Lots of ups and downs. Then Andrew crashed over the bars after his pedal hit a hidden rock in the grass. We lost the bunch, but carried on. We rode alone for the rest of the stage 40km or so. Last 20 was fast and fun.
Day 5. Time trial day. We started 7 teams from last at nearly 1pm. Hot already. The course was uphill for the first 15km, then down and then 2 more climbs half of the 1st one each. Like a mast climb TT. Legs felt good. Lots of teams around out time so were just out of the top 40.
Day 6. Fast tar start and I did too much early after 20km I was struggling, I rode like a dog at the back of the bunch for a good 30km, I managed to find some legs and we caught a few good teams and hung around with them through the middle section. With a huge climb to come we needed to conserve. Andrew Crashed again hitting a Brazilian instantly as the dude went down in front of him, luckily it was sandy. Straightened things out and got going again. More chasing. Legs came back on the 1st 3km climb to the WP, but then died again on the 8km sandy lumpy rocky climb over Groenlandberg. It felt like I was dragging a dead buffalo behind my bike. After that it was happy times through some sibgletrack. Andrew hit a metal spike or something hidden in the rocky riverbed in the singletrack. We bombed it and it held eventually. The 5km trail left to the finish was littered with bombs and tubes. It seems the spike was quite successful. Happy to be over the hardest day.
Day 7. Lots of climbing at the start but I climbed well and picked off teams, while Andrew closed the gaps on the downhills. We got out in some awesome company, and the pace was sustainable. We sped along until the singletrack…we came out with the other teams but I was hitting the wall. I ate and drank as much as I had, but only recovered a bit 30km later. The last 20km felt like 100. Finally got some legs in time for the last 5km of singletrack. A bit too late but still a decent result thanks to the early pace.
Day 8. Last night’s stomach pains probably kept some fuel out of the tank, although I climbed well early on and was well placed. Andrew usually catches up on the downhills but was absent for longer than usual. I waited a minute and he turned up missing 2 spokes in his front wheel after a coming together with one of the Mulebar guys. We chased a while after that but my legs were dead…. After the walk down the pass they were better though and we soldiered on catching a few teams. In the sandy last 10km we made up big time and caught 5 teams, the last 5km was district road and downhill and we raced hard, finally ending in a sprint with one team. Fun last km.
Bike Report: (for Noel)
The Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail 29er is quiet a mouthful to say, but it’s one hell of a bike. I only got it put together and cabled up at 12pm on Saturday morning the day before race day. I rode it in Tokai for an hour with no Front derailer, and with an XTR shifter and XT RD that morning, but fitted XO twist shifters, XX front derailer and XO rear. It’s just scraped 10kg fully built. I’m running a 2 x 9 speed setup. 42/29 on front 11/34 on the back. We climbed 26% and 27% stuff and there were enough gears.
I had some setup issues, the seatpost was 350mm and I needed to run it 1cm past the max limit to get my saddle height, in fear of breaking the frame I ran it flush and sat too low. See above for cramping day 1. The front end was washing in every slow corner, I had to slow down to get off and walk pace to turn in the in the loose over hard corners and sand. Faster stuff was fine.
I changed out the stem from 90mm to 110 and got a longer 400mm seatpost, I also dropped the stem flush on top of the headset to get lower. With the cockpit more over the front wheel things got radically better. The only thing left to do is fine a perfect front for setting. For small bump compliance I ran it soft, but then bottomed it out on rocky stuff and washed again in corners. Running it harder killed my wrists but handling improved a lot. I’m still fiddling with the rebound.
The 29er is a rocket in sand, reeling in teams seemed unfair, on the tar it’s like a road bike with knobblies and I hardly felt the corrugations on the district roads. It’s still a hard tail so feedback at the rear was immense over really rough rocky parts, and railway tracks. Acceleration was never a problem reviews say it is, but it isn’t with a light enough wheelset.
Climbing it was great, including technical climbs, the 29er made it easy. The really loose rocky, boulders and babyheads stuff was a bit more tricky because of the way the front wheel tracks, but if you climb fast enough to keep it straight there is no problem.
Downhill singletrack is awesome, swooping turns and quick through the trees stuff is amazing. The bike floats over roots so pick any line.
Thank You, Thank You Thank You some more!!