The Cape Rouleur & ABSA Cape Epic
This blog is overdue…waaaaay overdue but the last 2 months seemed to have blurred into one unbelievably exciting, sometimes scary journey. That’s the Life of Ness…
Slow blog excuse… I got really bad flu post-Epic and had my mum visiting me as well – this was a Godsend as I was bedridden and there is NOTHING better than being mothered, literally! Physical & mental recovery was very slow (you’ll find out why shortly) as well as getting back into the swing of “normal life” and dealing with post-Epic blues! I also had to sift through 1000’s and 1000’ s of photographs of the Cape Rouleur and Cape Epic to give you guys a good look as to what it was like!
A week before Epic, I took part in one of the most well organised, incredibly special events - The Cape Rouleur, brought to you by Hot Chillee, who are also the events organizers behind the London to Paris and the TransAlphine.
I met Sven Thiele, the CEO of Hot Chillee last year and not only did he invite me to ride the Cape Rouleur but he also asked me to head up their new development rider program which I took on with great enthusiasm!
Enter Nicholas Dlamini and Reyatile Mthakathi. I met Nicholas last year at one of the JAG Runners camps that Ryan and I hosted, and this multi-talented athlete’s abilities were quite apparent from the get go! I met Reyatile at the Sky Run last year on a picturesque farm called Pitlochrie, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere! Also a multi-talented athlete from snow skiing champ to tennis ace, Reyatile was sure to be a part of my team!
With much help from Sven and his “right-hand-man” Jane, we got the boys to the start line of the prologue on Sunday the 3rd of March. The start to what promised to be one of the “funnest” weeks I’ve ever had!
I some how managed to get myself into group 1 (thanks Joel, Karl and Maurizio!!) which was a huge honour especially since I’d be spending the next three days alongside legends like Stephen Rouche, Maurizio Fondriest and the whole Bulls team (and no, not the rugby team). The pace however was another story… And those damn sprint sections!? I can’t complain though as I came out of it all a lot fitter I’d like to think! Wearing the pink leader jersey for all three days also put a big smile on my face.
The route took us through magnificent terrain like Franschhoek pass (3 times!!!) and along pristine coastal roads through Gordon’s and Betty’s Bay! I rode where I’d never been before, stopped for quick yummy lunches and chatted all along the way!
The support team was just as unreal!! We had fantastic crew on motorbikes and brightly branded Cape Rouleur Hertz cars protecting us from other vehicles and warning oncoming motorists of the approaching peloton, which was divided into 3 groups.
Being based in Franschhoek was also such a blessing as I don’t get out there nearly enough but LOVE the surrounding mountains and the history of this sleepy little town with its magnificent monument!
After 525km and more than 6000m of climbing, we finished off the adventure with a 5-star finale dinner under a bedouin tent right next to the monument. Red wine flowed, soothing our sore bodies, as we reminisced about the last few beautiful and very hot days.
A huge thank you to Sven and his team, and all the sponsors involved! I had the time of my life and to see Nicholas and Reyatile smiling from ear to ear every day was so heart warming!
ABSA Cape Epic
A day after the Cape Rouleur, we headed up to Joburg for my sister’s wedding, which was one of the most beautiful and fun wedding’s I have ever been to! And just a few days later, Team ABSA checked into our hotel in Cape Town where we had various media responsibilities and ABSA client rides etc. leading up to the start of this awesome 10-year anniversary event!
After registration and the charity spinathon at the V & A Waterfront, we made our way to Clara Anna Fontein in Durbanville, which is a stone throw away from Meerendal Wine Estate – the venue for the Prologue of the Cape Epic. I battled to sleep that night as my stomach churned at the thought of what was to come. It’s like an impending doom but not all bad, if that makes any sense at all! In fact, it’s probably more fun and excitement coupled with a whole lot of suffering… That probably doesn’t make much sense either. Welcome to the ABSA Cape Epic!
So many people asked me how I felt doing my second Epic compared to last year. I can’t say I was less terrified but at least I felt more prepared in terms of what to expect when it comes to packing, pre and post stage routines, race village set up, the imminent suffering and the mental strength required to overcome that.
Stage 1/Day 2 was a killer and we were thrown right into the deep end. Sand, sand and more sand. Walking, pushing a 11-12kg mountain bike through thick beach-like sand for kilometers on end became the beginning of the end for many, as the drop out rate soured after that particular crazy day. The first few days were incredibly tough but enjoyable non the less, and I took many moments to soak up the never-ending views; something I didn’t really do last year as the reality of the scope of what I was doing was ever present! Surely I can’t be enjoying this if it’s so tough? I’m happy to say that I really was able to relax just a little this year and take in the beauty of not only the “irrational” but also my surroundings. The last 3 days however, posed more of a problem…
The area we rode in this year was particularly dusty and after 4 days of inhaling powder-like dust, most people were coughing and battling with their chests. I was unfortunately one of them. I was born with sport-induced asthma but I haven’t had an attack in 20 years and was rather happy I had outgrown the debilitating disorder, but on Friday/Day 6 I really battled to breath most of the day and about 5 min after crossing the finish line, I had an asthma attack.
By the time I got to the mobile Medi-Clinic, I wasn’t breathing much at all and was taken to ICU where I spent the next 5 hours while they nebulized and monitored me. I was terrified as I thought my race was over and I only had two more days left! This couldn’t be the end!
Late that afternoon, I wobbled back to my camper van, having been told to “check in” at the hospital the next morning for the doctors to check my oxygen saturation levels as well as listen to my chest. The next morning I was on my bike, armed with asthma pump, and I soldiered through 99km and almost 3000m of climbing – the highest climb of the week. The climbing, which I usually enjoy most, turned into torture as even the smallest hill resulted in my heaving for air and reaching for my fast-acting inhaler. If it hadn’t been for my fantastic partner and personal medical doctor, Michael Mol, and 2 dear friends, Hermi and Sean, there is absolutely no way in the world I would have finished that day.
They pulled me. They pushed my bike. They gave me words of encouragement and picked me up when I crumpled onto the ground as another asthma attack gripped my body. I was at war with my own body and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.We were all in tears when we finished on Saturday and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the 3 guys who helped me.
I have never had to dig as deep as I did in those last 3 days. Most of it is a blur other than the finish at Lourensford, which was one of the happiest days of my life! Not only because I finished in “one piece” but also because Ryan and Thandi, my mum, whom Ryan had flown down to surprise me, and many close friends, were there to support me. Achievement has no worth unless you have someone to share it with…
Michael and I finished in 26th position in the mixed category out of 62 teams in a total time of 48:52,35,2. That is a long time to be on a bicycle. Ha ha!
It was truly an honour to be a part of Team ABSA again as they created more ever-lasting and very special memories for me, taking me one step closer to reaching my goal of becoming an Amabubesi member (riders who finish 3 events). I’m proud to say that all 6 teams finished the grueling 2013 race! To ABSA – your support over the last 6 months of my life has been unfathomable. Thank you for making my dreams come true.
“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible” – Albert Einstein