Having been a lone finisher at the end of the 2014 Cape Epic, Spanish star José Hermida experienced it all during the eight-stage race in the Western Cape. He's hoping to be fully recovered in time for the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup opener in Pietermaritzburg on April 11-13.
Having started the Cape Epic strongly, Hermida and his partner Rudi van Houts were unable to finish the race together after the latter had to pull out during stage 5, leaving Hermida to power his way through to an unofficial finish. Nonetheless the Multivan Merida rider thoroughly enjoyed his sixth Cape Epic.
"Well, the race went well until things went bad," the Spaniard said light-heartedly. "We had a special Epic, going from moments of glory to some sad moments and then losing the leader jersey and also 'losing' my partner with a couple of days to go."
Having gone into the race with some high expectations, Hermida and van Houts managed to achieve these goals early on in the race but when van Houts was forced to withdraw, Hermida's goals changed and the race ended unfavourably for him as he crossed the finish line alone.
"We actually managed to achieve our goals early on in the race because we wanted to get a stage win and also claim the leaders' jerseys and we got both of those after the prologue but, for sure, we didn't want the race to end like it did," the charismatic Hermida said.
With only two weeks between the end of the Epic and the start of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, Hermida is under pressure to make sure that he is fit enough to compete well in the elite men's cross country clash at Cascades. It is a novel position that Hermida and world ranked number one Nino Schurter, who also did the Cape Epic, find themselves in with such a short break between the Epic and the World Cup.
"The priority for me, with such a short space of time between events, is definitely the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, but I hope that I will be ready physically for the event. I feel like the Epic peloton has ridden over me!" he said, chuckling.
"It was obviously different last year because we had a bigger gap between the Epic and the first round of the World Cup, so we could focus completely on the Epic - but not this year and I hope I get into my cross country rhythm back!"
Coming off such a long race to much shorter, sharper racing could be a burden for a lot of riders but not for Hermida who feels that the Epic is beneficial for him, especially so early in the season.
"The Epic is really special and you try and get focused and use the stages to build up a good tempo, I find that it helps to build a solid base for the rest of the season," he said.
The Western Cape has become a popular spot for international mountain bikers in the early months of the year leading up to the Cape Epic, and Hermida was also in the country a week or so before the race.
"I arrived in South Africa 13 days before the Cape Epic to prepare but I have been back home with my friends and my family, though I'll be back in South Africa a few days ahead of the World Cup."
Having spent a few weeks down in the Cape, Hermida has had the opportunity to acclimatise and the difference in provinces is not an issue for the 2010 world champion who does not feel that there is too much difference in conditions.
"Being in the country means that I have become used to the weather and conditions. Pietermaritzburg is a bit more humid but in the end conditions are the same for all the riders," Hermida said diplomatically.