Routine racing

March 31, 2008

Jenny Smith used the satellite phone to call in yesterday [Monday after stage three - ed.], because one of the recurring themes of Cape Epic has proven true once again: [it's] hard to get internet service! Apparently even all the media guys were struggling with getting their material posted. So, I chatted with Sue and Jenny for a few minutes and took notes on their story.

The first thing Jenny said was, "We worked our asses off today! It was SO HARD, Zack." Evidently there was a crash in the group early in the stage. Sue and Jenny didn't get tangled, but they were delayed, and wound up riding alone most of the day. Riding alone is quite normal in most mountain bike races, but the Cape Epic is different. With many long sections of road and dirt road, riding in a group is key to saving energy and going faster. So riding alone, trading pulls in the wind, basically doing a 120 km two-up time trial on mountain bikes, Sue and Jenny tackled the stage.

To make matters worse, while riding in second place on the day, Sue flatted and they had some trouble with the change. This was with about 30km to go. They lost about six minutes and were passed by the Dolphin team for the second place on the stage. However, after changing the flat, they put things into overdrive, and put everything into the chase. They were catching groups and making up time, despite crosswinds and again working alone on the roads. They managed to recover all but 30 seconds of the deficit by the finish. But again, Jenny emphasized how hard it was, due to the crosswind and heat. It's been 40 degrees C there (around 100 degrees F).

When I spoke to Sue, she commented, "It's not like La Ruta hard. Its not brutal in that kind of way. It's just a different kind of race, due to the riding in groups, the wind, the tactics. It's really intense for the first race of the year."

On the plus side of things, both Sue and Jenny commented that they are settling into a routine. The days go by quickly when wake-up call comes at 5:00 am, quick breakfast is followed by staging at 6:30 am, then the start goes off at 7:00 am. The race finishes around 1:00 pm. The race organization is apparently top notch, really slick. For example, they have two sets of dining tents, so that one can leapfrog the other, and always be set up ahead of time.

Team Staff Laura Downey and Steve Borkoski are also working their asses off. Laura hand-washed everyone's team kit yesterday! We'd have to hear from Steve, but according to Chris, the bike was is the best he's ever seen ... and I reckon Chris has seen a number of bike washes in his days. While driving the RVs from start area to finish town, they have seen zebras, monkeys, and springboks. So it's quite the safari experience as well!

All in all, when I asked Sue would she do it over again, judging by this point in the race, she slowly said, "Yeah, I think I would do it again. It's hard being the first race of the year. You'll have to ask me at the finish!"

Stay tuned for more.

Zack Vestal, Manager
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.