Cape Epic mixed category winners Paul Cordes and Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) proved throughout the race that you can't keep a good team down. This week, the pair has been basking in the afterglow of their second Cape Epic victory in three years.
South Africa's Cape Epic mountain bike stage race is famous for its survival stories. There are, for example, many stories about riders taking a tumble while racing at high speed. This often leads to bones being broken or blood being donated involuntarily. Then there is the all too well-known race against time when trying to fix mechanical failures. Sometimes the Epic even turns into a running marathon when a rider has no other option but to run with his or her bicycle, or part of the bicycle, across the shoulders.
In view of this, Cordes and Speedy had an amazing eight days of racing. They only had one puncture between the two of them and one serious health scare when Cordes dehydrated during the first stage. Of the eight stages, they won five and they were in the top-20 overall up until the seventh stage.
According to Cordes, the only reason why they lost their top-20 placing was that they decided rather to play it safe over the last two days of racing.
"It is stupid to take unnecessary risks when you are winning," Cordes said. In the end they finished 22nd overall, which is not bad considering that more than half of the teams that started the Epic did not finish.
"The first stage was our worst. Yolandé and I started off strongly. It did not take us long to open a five-minute lead on the Swiss team, Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss. Our problems started when we arrived at one of the water stations and could not identify our bottles. The bottles were there, but we made the mistake of not marking them correctly so they could not be found.
"Because I was worried about losing too much time, I said to Yolandé 'Let's ride to the next water station'. I reckoned that we could take this chance because we still had one bottle to share between the two of us.
"When we got to the next water station, I tasted the water and it had a very funny taste. I did not want to take the risk of picking up a stomach bug, so we continued racing without taking any water with us. It turned out to be a huge mistake. I totally dehydrated and ended up 'blowing' completely, which led to us losing about eight minutes.
"But the funny thing was that neither Yolandé nor I was really despondent about the way things turned out. Actually it served as an extra motivation. We realized that we could beat the Swiss team if we kept our cool. So from the next stage we started chipping away at their lead.
"The fourth stage was the deciding moment. We were involved in quite a battle with the Swiss. Then, during the last 40 kilometres, Yolandé and I decided to really put down the hammer and we never looked back during the rest of the Epic. We managed to ride away from them and to open a useful gap."
Cordes was full of praise for the role the MTN-Energade mechanics played in their victory. "The guys really put in long and hard hours to ensure that our bikes were in tiptop condition every day. That is the reason why we had no mechanical problems apart from the one puncture."
After winning the last stage, Speedy said, "This is the first time that I've won the final stage and it's fantastic to win overall. I had goose bumps while coming in. It was great to see the crowds and enjoy their support."