TechPowered By

More tech

Trek/VW

All strung out, two by two

The bigger picture

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 10, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:59 BST

It's been six days now since the Cape Epic stage race wrapped up in Cape Town, South Africa. I've...

April 11, 2008

It's been six days now since the Cape Epic stage race wrapped up in Cape Town, South Africa. I've heard from the riders and staff that they are finally back home, lost luggage has been reclaimed, and they are gradually adjusting to normal life. It's fair to say that everyone is flat out exhausted and happy to be done.

Shortly after the finish of the final stage, I got the happy report that Chris [Eatough] and Jeremiah [Bishop] were eighth on the final stage, and Sue [Haywood] and Jenny [Smith] were second. Each team solidified its hold on their overall positions. From a racing standpoint, things went as well as we could have hoped. I think the level on the men's side was higher even than we anticipated, and Chris especially was stunned by the level of the World Cup riders in attendance. On the women's side, we put up the best fight we could and made a great race out of it. Two stage wins plus the prologue is really good!

Plus, from a team and brand perspective, we gained a great deal of exposure. Interviews and TV on Eurosport, photos in London Times, plus all the endemic cycling press covering the race. While I personally was in the US working the first two NMBS events, it seemed like EVERY DAY people were coming up to me and asking how our team was doing in the Cape. I think it's fair to say that the eyes of the mountain bike world were focused on the Cape Epic as a class-leading global event. It's good for our team to participate at that level when we can.

In chatting with riders and staff, it's interesting to hear more about the race and the effort required. Chris for one said that he's confident that the training benefit will persist through the whole season. Jeremiah is likely to be on par with his World Cup competitors, going into the first three rounds of the World Cup. On the other hand, the staff is just flat out exhausted. Steve our mechanic said that he's never worked so hard in his life, and he's a really hard worker! I'm glad that our first-year soigneur Laura hasn't quit yet ...

She commented on some of the things we DON'T see reported when stories of the race are published. She noted how poverty and scars of war are easy to see just outside the race venue. While the race traverses wealthy areas and is safe, there are places just beyond the course and camping that are riddled with crime and crushing poverty. Laura said the contrast between rich and poor is stark, and hard to stomach at times.

I think it's important that we all remember these things as our sport becomes more globalized. I hope that cycling can be an opportunity for our cultures and geopolitics to intersect in a positive way, that spreads a message of cycling as useful, fun, and exciting. We as racing teams consider going fast on the bikes to be the most important thing, but perhaps we can remember that simply introducing the sport to other cultures and countries can solve problems of transportation and hopefully poverty someday.

Zack Vestal, Manager
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

Time for a push

Darkest hour, greatest moment

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 04, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:59 BST

Standing amid pre-race music and a predawn marine layer of clouds (before stage seven ) were just...

April 4, 2008

Standing amid pre-race music and a predawn marine layer of clouds (before stage seven) were just 900 of the 1,200 riders who signed up for the hardest and longest event in the history of the Cape Epic.

"Udo," I called out from within the start box. "Which race is harder, this one or the Tour de France?" I asked with a smile.

In a thick German accent, Udo Boelts, a veteran of more than 10 Tours replied, "It is about the same. The Tour is longer, but this… in this you have no recovery, no smooth spinning and descents on which you can eat, drink and recover. This race, it is always go, go, go!"

Somehow, I suspected that might be the answer to my question. The Cape Epic is like the Tour without the chatty laughing from the peleton or occasional neutral pee breaks. At the stage finishes of the Cape Epic, you'll never see sparkling clean bikes and fresh faced riders. And you'd better bet your ass that the riders in this race are suffering from the beating that close to 1,000 kilometers of prehistoric red dust, sand and volcanic rock can dish out on your hands, feet and tail.

This morning was tough at the Trek team camp. Jenny [Smith], who is in second place on our women's team, was sick and wore a look of dread on her face. I asked how she was doing. "Not good," she said, holding back tears. I knew she was not only sick, but also run down. Who isn't run down at this point? I know I am. Sleep deprivation, aching muscles, the hardship of brutal five-hour stages, the best competitors in the world; these things add up. I wasn't much feeling like putting my raw ass on a bike's seat for one more day, but I didn't share this. Instead, I said, "I'm proud of you. There's only one more short day after this! We're almost done!"

During our race today, Chris [Eatough] and I fought to make the lead group. I helped Chris keep up with the pace on the steepest sections. We were riding close, always communicating and putting in a super-focused effort to make the jump to the lead group for the high-speed dirt roads that always links the jeep track trails. After feed zone one, we rode toward the tail of the leading group with Bart Brentjens and Alban Lakata of the Dolphin-Trek team. Apparently, Alban was another rider facing sickness. He was lagging badly behind Bart; Bart was too far ahead to help, so he just would look back with a puzzled expression. Alban looked green and his head hung in a strange way but he fought to continue and did!

In the second half of the race, Chris, too, was hurting. However, unlike Bart, I sensed my team-mate's condition and stuck as close as possible. Since I was feeling very good today, I pushed Chris to keep us in that top group.

With 10 kilometers to go, we were caught by four riders of the ETTO-Hoydahl teams (ETTO-Hoydahl has three teams in the race). Rune Hoydahl, the many-time World Cup winner was in the group. Nearing the finish, as they continued to work together, and we suffered like dogs to stay with them. We raced down the last dusty dirt road to the finish, teeth gritting in the dust, not able to see anything. We were in the zone.

We put on some nice moves to beat the second ETTO-Hoydahl team for tenth place in the stage. After the race, I thought of our day and I knew we had ridden not only as well as we could, but most importantly, we rode though the toughest part of the Cape Epic as team and found our greatest moment from our worst.

We hope tomorrow will be a smooth and short stage to the finish.

Thanks for reading,
Jeremiah Bishop
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

Sue Haywood leads Jenny Smith

Exciting day

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 03, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:58 BST

It was a very exciting day for us. Our initial plan to get a good start today and my personal goals...

April 1, 2008

It was a very exciting day for us. Our initial plan to get a good start today and my personal goals to ride smart with the descents into the climbing transitions turned into a fantastic position riding in the leading women's group with Alison Sydor and Pia Sundstet (Rocky Mountain Team), the overall women's GC leaders. We also rode with several of the strong mixed category teams. Our race plan evolved as we went - to stick through aid station one, aid station two and three...and finally up the 12km climb to the finish. It was super exciting to come across the line in first with Alison and Pia on our wheels. Great racing and what we came for. Today's [stage four - ed.] win solidified our overall place in second.

The Trek VW men's team of Chris Eatough and Jeremiah Bishop finished in 12th and moved into 11th in the GC.

Today's stage four was just another day in the very fast and brutal Cape Epic Stage race. It is one thing to have pre-conceived expectation about an event and quite another to learn the reality. Each day is another day and each day is long, hard and HOT – Africa Hot. (40 degrees plus Celsius today). If you want to know how different that is from Gunnison, Colorado, right now, check the weather on the internet.

It's also very important to get in a good group of riders; however, it is a dirt and mountain bike race, so it's always challenging and not a road race.

The race has been fantastic, and everything about this event is somewhat mind-blowing – the 3,000 tents and two dining halls that leap frog each other, for example. Last night's camp is at tomorrow's venue. The food is exceptional, the media impressive and the vibe pretty great five days in.

I am wearing a Polar heart rate monitor that you can view live on the Absa cape-epic website as I race . My condition in using it was that I would not be able to see my heartrate during the race; however you can, or I can check it afterwards.

Thanks everyone; it's awesome.

Jennifer Smith
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

Sue Haywood

Opportunity knocks

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 03, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:59 BST

Stage five of the Absa Cape Epic was described as easy and flat by most people. Looking at the...

April 2, 2008

Stage five of the Absa Cape Epic was described as easy and flat by most people. Looking at the profile cards that they give out to each team, it did indeed look easier than the last two days. Stage five only had 1,850 meters of climbing - down from 2,300 meters. But it was 146km!

Well it was anything but easy. The starts are coming earlier and earlier each day – well, not actually, but it seems like it. Plus, there is no such thing as an easy start here at the Epic. Even though today was mostly a downhill start, it can be very nerve-racking riding around on the road with 1,200 mountain bikers. There is always some kind of crash. My friend Allan lost his partner Hillary and he continues to race, but he is obligated to start at the back of the pack. He said it seems liike there are five kilometers of riders. I can't wait to see some of the pictures from the starts.

My legs were not great again at the start. Its hard with absolutely no warm-up and fatigued legs. So, I was suprised to find ourselves riding with Pia and Alison again today [in stage five - ed.]. Jenny seemed to be doing much better than me, but later she said she was in the pain cave as well. There were all these big rollers on a bumpy gravel road. It was pretty hard to just sit in and get the draft. But we managed. We were able to get to the first aid station with a decent group. We are getting much faster at those, which helps to minimize work down the road.

Then to my great surprise, there was some cool mountain biking today [Wednesday - ed.]. We turned off the gravel on to dirt double track. This dirt then turned to sand. I got caught behind a very dramatic crash when a guy did a high-speed sand wobble. His bike bounced two times and he totally taco-ed his wheel. Then another guy banged into me. To make up for it, I made him and his team-mate tow me back to the group.

The sand riding was actually really fun for me. It was a nice change of terrain. And for a change I was riding it pretty easily. I usually am too heavy on the front wheel and end up messing up. Maybe all that sand riding at team camp in Moab helped. Alison got her first flat for the day. She had a sidewall tear, so it wasn't a quick change, but they caught us right before the second feed zone.

The best thing about the sand riding was the view of the ocean. It was so magnificent! Gosh, how I wanted to go for a swim! . Swimming was not on the agenda, though. On the agenda, was hanging on the Rocky Mountain Girls wheels on the rough double track. It was nice riding. The only hard part was that the body was so tenderized that the rough stuff felt like a jackhammer.

Alison got flat number two...that's a bit unlucky. It seems like when you flat once, the chance of flatting again always goes up. We kept our regular pace. Then back out on a miserable gravel road, we wanted to get to the last aid station before them. As I looked back, I rubbed Jenny's wheel and nearly had a bad wreck. A saddle in the butt and a tire scrape on the knee was about it.

We regrouped and dug deep again to stay with the Rocky girls (Rockettes??) Jenny had already died a thousand deaths, but kept digging. 18km from the finish, Alison flatted again. That is really unlucky! So we gave it a go in the wind and went for a stage win. We could feel them breathing down our necks. Did I mention how hard the finishes are here at the Epic? The finishes are brutal. They have massive head winds and are really long.

Anyway, we won the stage [five] by two minutes. That doesn't put a dent in the GC, but we opened the door when opportunity knocked.

Sue Haywood
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

The hardest race?

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 03, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 12:00 BST

Just when I thought we had seen it all here at the Cape Epic, the brutal race course found a new way...

April 3, 2008

The hardest race?

Just when I thought we had seen it all here at the Cape Epic, the brutal race course found a new way to punish us. The killer of today's stage [six] was a 15km long, flat, wide road near the end of the 130km stage. Sounds like a nice way to get to the finish, right? We thought so, but this was the worst road I have ever ridden on a bike. Deep sand, constant jackhammering braking bumps, and a strong headwind made forward progress very tough, and our close to broken bodies screamed in pain.

For the fifth day in a row, I crossed the finish line and collapsed. We just missed out on our new daily goal of a top ten finish, but there was nothing more that I could give. The Trek/VW ladies team of Sue Haywood and Jenny Smith raced over the same course and conditions for over six hours, and no doubt encountered their own trials and tribulations along the way to finish second on the day in the women's race. As I pounded water, Coke, and recovery drink in finish area, the question on my mind was one that I have contemplated often this week, "Is this the hardest mountain bike race I have ever done?"

It's not easy to answer. I have raced over a dozen 24 hour solos on all kinds of courses, in all kinds of conditions. I have also raced the TransAlp, and the BC Bike Race, which have similar formats to the Cape Epic. I have raced in freezing rain, and searing heat. I have raced when very sick, and I have raced with injuries. At this moment, I feel that the Cape Epic tops them all in terms of toughness. Maybe my viewpoint is skewed because I'm in the middle of the race, and the most recent pain often stings more than the more distant ones, but I really don't think I've ever suffered more intensely than this, and for a longer duration.

24 hour solos include riding through the night, sleep deprivation and often disorientation, but the course is on a loop, and one more lap always seems reasonable. Cape Epic is point to point, nine days in a row, over all kinds of terrain, the nature of which is mostly unknown to us as we head out each day. The level of competition is much higher and deeper than any other endurance race in the world. Cross country and marathon world champions, Olympic gold medalists, marathon and stage race specialists, and super fit, motivated South Africans with intimate knowledge of the course. This makes the pace relentless.

My team-mate Jeremiah Bishop and I are constantly amazed how little rest and recovery time we are finding in the five to six hour stages. It is full throttle almost the whole time.

As I mentioned earlier, the course is brutal, and always changing. One day the toughest part is the long, steep, rocky, climbs, then next day it's sand dunes that are almost unrideable, and another day it's windswept dirt roads that force us to lean diagonally into the wind to stay upright.

The timing of the race is also a factor. Starting in March, this is my first race of the year. Where I live in Maryland, we are just coming out of winter. After travelling for two or three days, we find ourselves racing across South Africa in 100 degree heat, with 1,200 mountain bikers, many of whom are peaking for this prestigous event. I never consider myself an early season peaker and always seem to struggle in my first few races of the year. No chance to warm up into this one. Every day has been a fight. I have been at my maximum and beyond every day, spending by far more time in the red zone than I have at any other race. Then we wake up at 5:00 am the next day to do it all over again.

Maybe I should wait until the race is over. and I've had a reflection period before I decide on an answer to my question. But I don't think it's going to get any easier. With two days to go, I know the answer already. The Cape Epic is the toughest mountain bike race I have ever done............yet.

Chris Eatough
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

Jeremiah Bishop and Chris Eatough in the prologue

Reality and heat set in on Cape Epic stage two

By:
Cycling News
Published:
April 01, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:58 BST

Yesterday's stage one one was the first big stages of the Cape Epic, and it held up to its promise...

March 30, 2008

Yesterday's stage one one was the first big stages of the Cape Epic, and it held up to its promise to be one beast-of-a-stage. The route covered three thousand-plus meters of climbing through dense, subtropical rainforest. The front of the race started out wicked fast, and even Bulls rider Karl Platt said the pace was like the blistering start of a cross-country World Cup. At Cape Epic, the difference is we still had 100 kilometers left to race!

Now though, reality is setting in. Some riders are facing the fact that in a rugged mountain bike race with 120-kilometer stages, they cannot race at all-out speeds day after day. I had some idea of what we would face; I have competed in La Ruta de los Conquistadores, Trans Alp and several other stage races.

Today we awoke before dark and headed to the breakfast tent, where riders from South Africa and from around the world were fueling up for the toughest stage ever in the Cape Epic's history. Some racers were already in riding gear, some wearing pajama pants, t-shirts and Crocs; some spoke German, some Italian, some Russian and even others many different styles of English. Common to all were bleary eyes and weary faces. Perhaps they were dreading the hardest day of the Cape Epic, or maybe the realization of seven more days of racing on noodle-legs, sore butts and raw feet was beginning to sink in.

As promised, today's stage was hot and tough. The route featured 3,000 meters of climbing in 137 kilometers to the hot Karu Desert of the South African interior. The start was frenzied and fast. The dusty dirt road and chaos reminded me of Paris Roubaix.

After the start, many of the teams who were overly ambitious in yesterday's stage hit the bottom of their reserves and began to slip backwards in the standings. In time, Chris and I moved up into a solid top-10 position.

We settled into a good grove after jumping on with former Telekom stars Udo Bolts and Carsten Bresser. However, soon they flatted, leaving us to continue our own for mile after mile of marble-strewn jeep track that made its way through the sagebrush.

We too hit some trouble as the temperatures soared into the 90s [degrees Fahrenheit - ed.] with the hot sun beating down on us. On one mountaintop, I looked around to take in the 360-degree view. Jagged brown peaks rimed the distant skyline. Vast expanses of rolling desert hills were with scattered with rocks and little life.

The last feed zone was located at the 100-kilometer mark. This was not too far from the finish. We grabbed two bottles and continued on the hour-long jeep road climb. The loose terrain required us, and all racers, to do some serious hiking with our bikes. We were out of water by the summit, but with only a 10-kilometer false flat to the finish we knew we'd make it without much trouble.

Eventually, our bike computers rolled over 130 kilometers and all I could see ahead was desert dotted with a few small outbuildings. At this realization, we quickly went from happily zipping down what we thought was the home stretch to worried and thinking "Oh my god, we're thirsty." Dry mouthed and getting dizzy, I mumbled with discontent, "You said the stage was 130 kilometers." Then we saw a sign that read seven kilometers to go. Our hearts sank. It seemed those last kilometers to the finish ticked by so slowly.

Now that we are re-hydrated and rested up, it's almost a funny story to look back on. But, at the time, we were really worried.

You never know what challenges you'll face in an adventure such as the Cape Epic, and that is something that holds true for each and every rider and team; from front runners to those whose goal is simply to cross the finish line in Lourensford.

Enjoying the adventure!
Jeremiah Bishop
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

Author
Trek/VW

For the first time, American-based team Trek / VW is sending racers to the internationally reknown Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa from March 28 to April 5, 2008. Two men and two women, all four accomplished in various off-road racing disciplines, come together to take on some of the toughest stage racers world-wide. Chris Eatough, who dominates the American 100 mile and 24-hour endurance scene, has partnered with World Cup racer and US Olympic Team contender Jeremiah Bishop while Xterra Off-Road regular Jenny Smith teams up with Sue Haywood, the winner of El Reto Guatemala, TransRockies, and La Ruta de los Conquistadores. All four racers and their team manager will take turns contributing diary entries before and during the event.