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Rest day… What rest day?

We started Stage 5 around the usual time of 7.20am. It was another chilly start to the day, but as we’ve come to expect, the milder temperatures didn’t last long and with another day of no wind, the temperatures turned into a battle.

We all started the stage with high hopes for an easier day. It has been sold to us as a ‘rest day’. Getting back on the bike day after day and encountering all the various terrains, inclines and whatever else the Absa Cape Epic throws at us, is challenging to say the least. There continues to be a fairly high dropout rate each day and the medical tent has been getting progressively busier as our bodies push on through. The main complaint are rather nasty saddle sores. Sven and I have been lucky so far, but we had some good preparation from the Cape Rouleur; although this was on our road bikes and therefore a much smoother ride.

Anyway, the high hopes for an easier day were quickly tarnished as we hit our first big climb of the day. At 75km, it was a short stage, but the climbing was relentless. That said, it was some of the most amazing riding I’ve done. The single-tracks were great fun today as we weaved our way along the purpose-built network between Wellington Vineyards and the slopes of Bain’s Kloof. The scenery offered was a real treat and our view has now changed from arid terrain to lush vegetation as we cycle through the vineyards.

Sven and I are moving up the rankings in our category and we’re now at number 19. We’ve been cycling for nearly 35 hours in total now and the finishing straight is in our view. Each night we’re feeding back our experiences to the mechanics and my Trek Superfly bike set-up is almost tweaked to perfection.

The great thing about the Absa Cape Epic is that it isn’t all about hard cycling. We’ve made some really great friends and each evening there’s lots of socialising. I presented the Master’s Leaders Jersey on Wednesday, which was a real honour and great to get to chat to riders off the bike too. Tonight we’re having a South African Braai (BBQ), re-fuelling for an incredibly tough stage for tomorrow.

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1987 Triple Crown Winner Stephen Roche is sharing his experience riding the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa with the HotChillee Absa Cape Epic MTB Team. Roche is racing with Sven Thiele. This is part of a joint celebration of HotChillee's The London-Paris and the Absa Cape Epic's 10-year anniversaries.

The HotChillee Cape Epic MTB teams' sponsors include The Bicycle Company for Trek MTB Bikes and Bontrager components, add-ons and Service Corp; PowerBar for nutrition; Hertz for vehicles; Continental for Tyres and LeMarq for clothing.