Field of Despair
Valley of Misery
"Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind."
Adversity introduces a man to himself, they say... and I wouldn't equate any task on a bicycle as a great calamity, there's a bond found through suffering that can't be found in many other ways.
The names listed above, while all named in private, were instantly recognized when shared after today's 147km stage from Roberston to Caledon. Its a mind game, this bike racing. We all know that physically we can complete a task once it's been done before. This is especially true in mountain bike stage racing...each day you'll find yourself battling, or rather, surviving, with the same guys.
Today's stage had me intimidated, both by the unknown terrain we'd cross, as well as by the metrics we'd been provided. 147km and 2900 meters of climbing is a stout day for anyone, but doing it on our fourth day of racing was to be another challenge. This is the Cape Epic, and there are no gifts... each stage is fast, and even if the group is together, fighting for wheels and position is an endless situation, adding to the mental load of the stage and race in general.
Today we battled for hours, the group ebbing and flowing, until eventually our group spit us out with less than a hour to go. The Valley of Misery dispatched us from our five-team group, the battle lost, but remaining was the true war. Picking up stragglers from the early break, we joined Milka-Superior and Fedgroup for the Field of Despair. Dick Cheney only wishes he had access to this piece of scorched earth and its littering of shale shards. Few men would hold their secrets if forced to ride this climb for a millenia. Tail wind, 40 degrees Celsius, no path, no line, and no sense of movement, just six lonely soldiers doing their best Louis Zamperini... trying to survive, together, until the test was over.
Looking down, as we dare not look up at the never moving horizon, we joked. We cried. Cursing in French, Afrikans, American, and Aussie trickled out to no one in particular.
Eventually the Field ended, but still remaining was the Scorched Forest, but that's another story.
Three days to go.
The two videos below are provided by Jason Sager. One is a conversation with him and Justin Lindine just after finishing stage 3, and the other his helmet cam footage highlights from stage 3.