Absa Cape Epic 2015 Report from Gawie Combrink
Johann and I lined up for the ABSA Cape Epic on 15 March. This is the ultimate MTB race in the world and we had 739km with 16000m of climbing ahead of us. The event attracts the best riders in the world and gives everyone a chance to compete and measure themselves against them. There were 600 teams competing.
We took a more conservative approach to the race. Favoring consistency over taking chances and possibly breaking our bikes or ourselves as many of our competitors would find out.
We kicked of the race with a 20 km prologue at the foot of Table Mountain. This is a stage where the race won’t be won, but can definitely be lost. We went as hard as we could up the climbs and took it steady and risk free on the descents. We finished in 13th place on the prologue and were exactly where we wanted to be.
Stage 1 was the queen stage of the race with 2900m ascent over 113km. Johann set the pace up the Groenland Berg. Towards the top we were slightly of the front group, but kept riding within our limits and didn’t take unnecessary risks. We rode a hard steady tempo and started catching a lot of teams one by one. With 40km to go were leading the African Competition. Johann had a small scare when his wheel got stuck going through a dip and he fell of a 2m bank on to some rocks. We got going again quite fast after that and managed to finish 8th on the stage.
Stage 2 was very windy with gale force winds to contend with and a very technical route covering 92km. We knew the trails from Wines2 Whales and it was a fun hard day out. The day started off flat out again going up a big climb and the rest of the stage had endless single tracks. We knew this was a day to cut our losses and we finished 10th again on the stage.
Stage 3 was the longest stage of the tour from Elgin to Worchester covering 128km. We started with climb over Groenland Berg and the pace was on from the gun. We made it over the mountain in the front split and were just of the front when we went over the Serpent climb. Johann had a puncture and we lost some time fixing that. We were left in no mans land chasing on our own. We decided it safer to change the repaired wheel at the first tech zone as we still had a lot of rough kilometers ahead of us. Eventually we caught up with two other teams, Jag Foundation’s Stephan Sam and Timo Cooper. We worked together well on the flats and reeled in a lot of teams towards the end and ended the stage in 11th place.
Stage 4 was a hard but a bit flatter loop around Worchester covering 111km. With the pace on again from the gun we were in the front group all day. It was a very dusty hot day and the large distance between the second and last water point took its toll as we ran out of water with 10km to the last water point. We lost contact over the last few climbs and ended top 10 on stage again.
Stage 5 was the king stage of the race with 121km and 2500m of climbing. Our legs had arrived and we were in the front group again. The group had whittled down to four teams and we were together till the last climb after Bainskloof pass. We just couldn't catch Red-E Blend and finished the stage of in 4th position.
Stage 6 was a short very intense stage that would suite the XC riders. It was only 71km, but had 2000meters of climbing. We left it all out on the road and went as hard as we could. Surprising a lot of people we came home in 4th place making up a lot of time on Red-E Blend and getting closer to the 2nd placed African team.
Stage 7 was a fast and furious race to Meerendal with a wall of a climb in the middle over Paardeberg. It was the stage everyone wanted to win as it was broadcast live on Super Sport and the last stage of the race. The first 20km was quite sedate as the large bunch headed to Paardeberg. On the climb the group just exploded. Team Miltivan Merida broke away with Centurion Vaude Meerendal over the climb. We chased back after that to second group that was chasing down the front two teams. Over the last hurdle of the race going up the quarry climb just before Meerendal we were slightly off the back again. We finished the stage in 8th position. We made up enough time to get 2nd African team and 6th overall.
This was Johann and my first Epic together and our goal was to finish top 10 and top 3 African team. Thank you for all the support and making it possible for us to race and compete at this level. Our next race is the National MTB Series Ashburton Clarens and then Joberg2C where we intend to defend our title.
Full results and stage details: http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/cape-epic-2015
Full stage highlights: https://www.youtube.com/user/absacapeepic
PCG Coach: Hunter Allen