Opportunity knocks

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

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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.