Mar 24, 2016

After 8 days of racing over 654km and ascending more than 15 000 vertical meters, Team NAD Pro MTB finished second in the Absa African Leaders Jersey Category and 12th place in the Overall GC. 

For the 2016 race, the team elected to stay in accommodation rather than in the race village to best prepare and recover for each stage. This proved to be a great decision after a large amount of riders withdrew in the early stages of the race with illness/stomach bug. 

The Prologue: 26km with 700m ascent

“The prologue went quite well for us. We played it safe and finished 8th overall and 3rd African team. The goal was to get the legs going and test the body for the coming  days” - Nico
“We have a love/hate relationship with the epic. The prologue was really cool, all the supporters and we raced flat out. We are happy with the result” - Gawie

The Prologue, hosted by Meerendal combined the trails of Hoogekraal, Meerendal and other purpose built single track that form part of the Tygerberg MTB club and riders enjoyed the punchy climbs and fast descents. Starting with the No 8 plate was spot on and it was the exact same position that they would finish after the Prologue. A great start to the race. 

Stage 01:  A 108km Loop from Saronsberg - Saronsberg in Tulbagh with 2300m of climbing. 

The first test of the Cape Epic came as no surprise to the riders. The event has a reputation as one of the hardest mtb stage races in the world and day 1 did not disappoint. Technical climbs, sketchy descents and loads of dust were the order of the day. Unfortunately Nico and Gawie had a few technicals and lost a bit of time to the Team USN who were the leaders in the African Jersey after stage 01.

“It started well, but we had some mechanicals and had to stop at both tech zones to sort them out. We lost around 10 minutes, but gained ground towards the end of the stage” - Nico
“It was a good stage, felt good, but the problems on the day made it hard work. We still rode well and managed to regain some lost time on the latter part of the stage” - Gawie

 Stage 02: 93km with 2200m of climbing looping Saronsberg once more.
The 100th stage of the Cape Epic took riders over the old wagon trail and into the Witzenberg Mountains. Riders had to traverse the mountain twice. Once going up and again on the way down through another very technical descent. The scenery in the Witzenberg Mountains is unique with its distinctive sand stone formations and was a great sight to behold.

A great day out for Team NAD Pro MTB taking the stage win in the African category and finishing in 8th place overall on the day. A hard fought victory and time gained on the category leaders.

“We did a bit of this route in the Tankwa Trek race a few weeks ago. I was still struggling with a pinched nerve in my leg. After about 45minutes of riding, my leg just goes numb. We did really well on the day, gaining 5 minutes on the leading team USN. All together it was a good day for us” - Nico

“Very dusty. Just super happy to make it out alive and it was actually a fun day” - Gawie

Stage 03: 104km with 2150m of climbing. The first transition stage for the 2016 edition taking riders from Tulbagh to Wellington. 

“It was a really hard day. Stared with a rocky climb and I really struggled with my leg. The rocky terrain made it slow going, but we managed to keep in touch with Waylon and Darren.  On a very sandy section, I had a small tumble. A quick check for bike and body and we carried on. On the next climb, team USN attacked and they managed to get away. We lost a lot of time on stage 03. The climb up Bainskloof was tough and overall a really hard day for us. Gawie was a great team mate and helped pace where he could” - Nico

“This is where the ‘hate’ part of the Epic comes in. It was a super tough day out and Nico had a small crash, nothing broken, just one of those things. It was not my favourite day on a bicycle” - Gawie

Troubles and tumbles aside, they still managed a 12th place finish on the stage, but conceded time in the African Jersey category.

Stage 04: 75km with 1850m of climbing. A day that included the Welvanpas single tracks, a popular day among the riders. Very steep climbs and great descents with jumps, bridges and switchbacks for days was the order of the day. The stage suited the XC riders in the field and they ensured that the true marathon riders had a hard time. Another 12th place finish for the team. 

“Yeah it was a shorter day, more for the XC riders. We just hung in there and tried to stay as close as possible to Waylon and Darren. In the end, I was not able to stay with them in the single track and we lost around 2 minutes. The best day of the 2016 edition” - Nico

“Short, Punchy, awesome” - Gawie

Stage 05: 93km with 2300m of climbing. Dubbed the Queen stage, each rider on the start line prepared for what was said to be the hardest day of the race. Consisting of 5 major climbs and quite a bit of jeep/dual track, the second transition stage was a hard one for Team NAD. 

“Its one of those days where you could make up time. I struggled in the beginning with a chest infection. We lost the group early on and had to ride by ourselves for most of the stage. A hard route with many corners and lots of sand. We managed to get to the finish without any problems and happy to still be in the race for the African Jersey” - Nico

After stage 05, Team NAD trailed Team USN’s Darren and Waylon by 20 minutes. A large amount of time, but the epic has a history of dissolving time gaps when you least expect it. The never say die attitude of the team kept them going.

Stage 06: Boschendal - Boschendal, 69km with 2100m of climbing. Another day suited to the XC riders. Sights of the Stellenbosch vineyards, False Bay and Table Mountain were all visible from the top of the Simonsberg Climb. Skyfall single track, another popular Western Cape gem treated riders to a fun descent before headed back to the finish venue at Boschendal. The nature of the day’s stage meant that time losses were minimal, but with the injury to Nico’s leg, they still lost around 2 minutes to the USN pairing and finished 11th on the stage. A consistent effort that kept the second place in the African Jersey category firmly in their grasp. 

Stage 07: The grand finale 86km with only 1200m of climbing from Stellenbosch to Meerendal. 

“Very very hard start, not much climbing, but many flat sections on the way to Meerendal. We were very strong on the open roads and managed to bridge the gap to the leading group. On the final climbs up to Meerendal, the XC racers made their charge for a stage win and at this point we could not hang onto the group. We finished 11th on the stage, 12th overall and 2nd African Team. This was a big goal for us and we are very happy with our performance under the circumstances. Thank you to all the sponsors and supporters who made it possible and came to support us. We appreciate it” - Nico

“The rain the last two days helped with the trail conditions. We had a great day on the final day. Very happy to finish on the podium for the African Jersey. Consistency was key and it paid of in the end” - Gawie

Great work by PCG Client Gawie Combrinck
Coach: Hunter Allen


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