I'm running, bike above my head, through the crowds at the finish of the 10th Absa Cape Epic. My teammate Sven Thiele and I have just crossed the finish line on the final stage. We're covered in dust; I'm sweating; far from composed. People around us are probably thinking the heat and events of the previous eight stages have turned us mad. Security guards are trying to stop us. I need to get to the main stage to present the winner's jersey of the grand master category live on Supersport TV. I make it, just in time!
Once the presentations are over, I have the time to take in the fact that we've just completed the Cape Epic. The words "gruelling", "untamed", "toughest" are all synonymous with this event and you can't argue with that. It's been an incredible eight days, weaving from vineyards, through forests to mountain crests, over rocks, stones, sand and gravel. You name it, we've ridden on it.
We've pedalled, pushed and climbed 15,650m over 698km and it's taken us 49 hours 12 minutes and 22.5 seconds. We finished 19th in our category and we're pleased. Especially as about 650 teams started and 490 finished!
The final stage was a gift at 56km, but we still had to endure 1,500m of climbing. The scenery - as with every other stage - offered so much. We set out in chilly conditions from Stellenbosch, and rode through Coetzenberg and Eden Forest, then through the Stellenbosch Winelands. Here we climbed to the top of a mountain to views of False Bay and out as far as Cape Point. After this climb we took the route over to Lourensford Wine Estate, with the final 25km being mainly downhill through forests, orchards and vineyards.
From about 1km to go, you could hear the finish, which was adrenalin-inducing. Coming onto the final straight, through the polo field filled with supporters was incredible and a moment I'll never forget.
The Cape Epic was a real feat of endurance and everyone who finished has achieved something very special. Once the riding and the presentations were done, Sven and I headed to the Absa tent to chat with fellow cyclists, share stories, rehydrate and refuel. After eight days of 5:00 am starts, cycling in extreme heat, traversing rocks, negotiating singletrack and taking a bump or two along the way, I'm looking forward to a few days of relaxation before thinking of the next challenge!
Congratulations to our fellow HotChillee riders, Craig Edwards and Dane Walsh on the HotChillee-Infinity team who came 50th overall in a time of 37:20:55. Also from the HotChillee camp was team HotChillee Adrenaline, with Alan Banks and Jan Joubert who came in 411th. Well done all.
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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.
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